According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, being the reason behind 1 in 4 deaths, approximately killing 647,000 Americans every year. In 2014-2015, about $219 billion was incurred in health care costs in the U.S. to treat heart conditions.
Most people do not make the time to get their heart tested since routine assessment tools are either expensive or laborious. A study published last year in the JAMA Network Open made it evident that an individual’s push-up capacity was associated with cardiovascular risk.
“Our findings provide evidence that pushup capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting. Surprisingly, pushup capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests,” Justin Yang, senior author and an occupational medicine resident at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said.
The researchers with a goal of finding affordable diagnostic tools studied data of 1,104 male firefighters and assessed annual records from 2000 to 2010. Over the course of the decade, each study participant was requested to perform push-ups to their maximum capacity at one go. This was repeated every year. While the average age of the firefighters was 39, they were in the obese weight range since their mean body mass index was 28.
Initially, about 36 participants could not finish performing 40 push-ups. When the study culminated, only one participant who completed 40 push-ups developed a heart condition, bringing the total number of firemen diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases to 37.
The findings revealed that men with the capacity to exceed 40 push-ups were at an advantage since their risk of heart disease had reduced by 96 percent. This analysis was in comparison to men who could not gather the strength to complete 10 push-ups.
When the participants were made to do a treadmill endurance test, it could not determine the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as push-up capacity.
“This study emphasizes the importance of physical fitness on health, and why clinicians should assess fitness during clinical encounters,” Stefanos Kales, senior author and professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School, said.