You probably already know that pushups are a great way to work out the muscles in your chest and shoulders. But new research suggests pushups may have another important use as a predictor of future heart health issues, according to The New York Times.
A new study published in JAMA Network Open suggests men who can do over 40 pushups at a time are much less likely to have heart problems later in life compared to men who can only do 10 or fewer.
The study, which was led by researchers at Harvard, Indiana University, and other institutions, drew from health data on a group of around 1,500 Indiana firefighters. The firefighters (they were mostly men, so the researchers focused on men only) had to undergo yearly medical examinations. These examinations included a pushup test—each firefighter had to do as many pushups as he could, up to a maximum of 80. Although the researchers initially focused on more traditional measures of heart health, they included the pushup results as a secondary data set. But the correlation proved intriguing.
When they looked at all of the firefighters’ medical reports over a 10-year period, a man’s ability to do pushups proved to be a better predictor of later heart issues than traditional methods, like treadmill stress-testing. They found that men who could complete 11 or more pushups had a lower risk of heart issues than men who could only do 10—and the risk dropped as the number of completed pushups increased. Men who could power through 40 or more were 96 percent less at risk of heart issues than those with the lowest numbers of completed pushups.
The existing tests for heart health, like treadmill tests or heart scans, involve expensive equipment and are complicated to set up and administer correctly. But pushups, the researchers conclude, could be a surprising alternative, at least for men like the firefighters they studied.
“Push-up capacity may be a simple, no-cost measure” for assessing cardiovascular health, they wrote.
Considering that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death around the globe, that’s big news. So go ahead: Drop down and see how many pushups you can bang out—it’ll build muscle and tell you how your heart is doing.