We’re betting you can probably do 22 pushups without too much trouble if you needed to, even if you haven’t hit the gym in a while.
So how about 22 pushups for 22 straight days? That’s the #22PushupChallenge, this summer’s viral echo of the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which has everyone from veterans to celebrities to regular folks hitting the deck—and challenging their friends to do the same on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
But like the #ALSIceBucketChallenge, the #22PushupChallenge is inspired by a real, dire concern: The estimated 22 U.S. veterans who commit suicide every day. While it’s hard to say if the number is accurate—more on that in a moment—it’s hard to argue with the need to do right by the people who have served their country.
Here’s what you need to know about the social media cause of the summer—and how you can throw some muscle into it.
1. It Works Like the #IceBucketChallenge
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, the viral fundraiser that had people heaving pails of water on their head in the name of ALS research back in the summer of 2014? The #22PushupChallenge works a little like that, although there’s no clear fundraising component (yet).
The concept: Post a video on social media of yourself doing 22 pushups, include the hashtag #22pushupchallenge, and tag a few friends to challenge them to join you. If you’re feeling really ambitious, do the challenge for 22 consecutive days.
2. And Celebrities Are Adding Some Muscle
Former Men’s Fitness cover guy Chris Pratt posted a clip of himself and his wife, Anna Farris, doing the challenge. Chris Evans (aka Captain America himself) joined in, as did John Krasinski and fellow former Men’s Fitness guy Scott Eastwood. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (and his dog) picked up the torch and passed it to his Central Intelligence co-star Kevin Hart, Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel, and Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt—and Watt, in turn, challenged gold medalist Simone Biles, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Justin Timberlake.
(No videos yet from the Governator, but we’re betting he’s got the upper-body strength to handle the workload.)
3. It Was (Probably) Started by a Nonprofit for Veterans
By all indication, the #22pushupchallenge was inspired by a veteran-created nonprofit called #22KILL, which set out in 2013 to help raise awareness of suicide and mental health issues among veterans. #22KILL—the name is derived from Marine slang—was started by Honor Courage Commitment, Inc., another veteran-focused nonprofit, in response to a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs that an average of 22 American veterans commit suicide each day.
One of #22KILL’s goals: to inspire people to do 22 million pushups as part of the broader awareness effort.
4. The Number of Veteran Suicides Could Be Even Higher
The VA first reported this widely cited statistic in a 2012, in which VA researchers estimated veteran suicides by comparing the percentage of reported veteran deaths by suicide in 21 states from 1999 to 2011 with the number of suicides in America. Some simple math yielded 22 suicides a day, although a later VA guide published in 2013 set that number at 18–22.
Unfortunately, there’s no sure number of veteran suicides—and, according to a CBS News report in from 2007, it’s possible that the VA is vastly underestimating how many veterans take their own lives. The number could be as high as 30 or 35, according to a 2014 USA Today report.
So even if 22 isn’t the exact number, it’s hard to argue with the importance of broader public recognition.
5. It’s a Great Way to Build Chest and Tricep Strength
Doing 22 pushups every day for 22 days is a great start to improve your overall chest, tricep, and core strength, social media posts or not. So before you start, make sure you know these three tips to improve your pushup, and five tips to make your pushup more productive.
You could, for example, shake up the 22 days of pushups with these 15 pushup variations.
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