Pushing your way to better heart health

Pushing your way to better heart health

This one is for the guys: You want a snapshot of your heart health? Drop and give me 40.

Pushups, that is. Your ability to pump out that many may be an indicator of your cardiovascular risk.

It can be hard for a physician to do a fitness test during a routine exam because of time constraints and the lack of equipment, such as a treadmill. A team of Harvard scientists devised this simple stamina test.

They enlisted more than 1,000 male firefighters to do a pushup test, then checked 10 years later to see if any had experienced any cardiac events. Those who could do 40 pushups in a row at the outset had a 96% lower risk of being diagnosed with heart disease compared with those who could do less than 10.

They noted the obvious limitations to the study. For one, they focused on men who on average were age 39, and did not include women. Plus, they chose firefighters, who are more active than others. And they did not look at other factors tied to heart disease risk, such as body mass index and if the person was a smoker.

But they propose pushup proficiency as an easy, no-cost measurement of strength and muscular endurance, something that physicians should consider during routine exams.

By now, you’re no doubt itching to hit the deck and see how many you can do. First, be sure you’re doing them properly. In a plank position with arms extended, palms flat just below your shoulder level, lower your body until your elbows are at 90 degrees, then push back up for one rep.

Do as many as you can while keeping good form. See if you can do a certain number in a week or in 30 days.

And the best part: You can do them anywhere, at any time. All you need is your body weight and a few minutes.


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