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Lillian Wilson

Push-Up Test As Your Heart Health Indicator

Push-ups are more than just a way to build up a great upper body. They directly indicate heart health and the risks of CVD.

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Push-ups are usually taken as an extremely basic exercise. It seems like people know about it from the crib. Some can perform it well, some can do just a few reps while others cannot do even a couple of pushes. Push-ups often appear as a part of popular YouTube workout complexes whether they are standard or modified.

Besides being vastly acquainted with this exercise, only some of us might know the actual value of push-up capacity performance. It is much more than just pulling up and down, enhancing endurance and building up muscles. Push-ups can asses, boost and predict your heart health.

What is a push-up test?

Physical fitness assessments such as push-ups measure the strength and endurance of your upper body.

In order to understand your muscles’ strength, you should challenge yourself and do as many pushups in one minute as you can. This test can also be used as a tracker to gage your upper body strength and endurance over time. A periodic review of the test is a good way for you to determine whether your fitness routines are helping you achieve your fitness goals, particularly with respect to the muscles used during a push-up.

Push-up capacity as you age

Physical performance is vastly affected by the ageing process. When ageing, we start losing muscle mass. This causes a decrease in muscle mass (and function) at a rate of 1% per year from the time a person reaches middle age. When reaching the age of 80-90, seniors can lose up to 50% of their muscle mass.

This age-related muscle loss also hugely impacts the push-up capacity. If men between the age of 18-29 can do 37-46 push-ups in one minute it is considered a ‘good’ result. At the same time, at 50-59, the ‘good’ level goes down to 19-24 push-ups a minute. Thus, the average number of push-ups decreases as we age.

Push-ups – a good heart health indicator: Why should you care about your ability to perform push-ups?

Old-fashioned push-ups are good for more than just getting a great upper body, they are a wonderful way to enhance the functionality and health of the cardiovascular system. This is because when you perform this exercise the heart is forced to work harder as muscles demand oxygen to produce energy and the only way to get it is from the heart pumping blood around faster. The very process trains and strengthens the cardiovascular system. And this is why we should all care about our push-up capacity and try to improve endurance and muscle strength.

Heart diseases are the #1 killers of humanity. For instance, coronary artery disease annually claims 8.9 million lives and the statistics are raising gradually but not positively.

Thus, the push-up test can serve as a good indicator and predictor of the health of your cardiovascular system, and here is why.

The push-up test is a great heart health indicator: science-based proofs

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1Indicates the likelihood of cardiovascular events

Push-ups measure muscular strength, which is associated with a lower heart disease risk. Therefore, push-ups can indicate a person’s heart health.

Multiple studies and researches prove the very hypothesis. One study suggests that the capacity to do 21 to 30 push-ups in one go lowered the threat of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by about 75% and being able to do more than 40 push-ups slashes the risk of heart disease by 96%.

Another study on the very topic revealed a more detailed correlation between the number of push-ups and cardiovascular disease risk. This study took a group of 1104 Indiana firefighters with an average age of 40 years. The firemen were divided into several groups based on their ability to perform a certain number of push-ups. After 10 years of follow-ups, the researchers walked up to a conclusion about the correlation between push-up performance and cardiovascular health.

Participants who did 10-20 reps had a 55% lower risk of CVD, those who did 21-30 push-ups had a 69% drop in risk and firefighters able to do 31-40 and more than 40 push-ups had 47% and 86% lower odds, respectively.

Even when considering the differentiations in the results as the risk of cardiovascular diseases is backed up by additional factors such as genetics, age, smoking, physical activity, etc. we clearly see that the more push-ups you can do, the better.

2Correlates with stroke and heart attack risks

A new study published in JAMA Cardiology revealed an association between push-up capacity and the risk of stroke and heart attack. The results suggest that middle-aged men able to do at least 10 push-ups could reduce their risks by as much as 97%.

3Affects blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Push-up capacity is directly correlated with heart health through its effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels which are two major risk factors for stroke, coronary artery disease and other CVD.

Dr Vishal Rastogi who specialises in the field of interventional cardiology, at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute informs that push-ups and other moderate exercises have a profound impact on heart health.

Push-ups benefit the heart as a muscle, improving its endurance and reducing blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.

These exercises reduce the risk of developing sugar, manage body weight, decrease stress hormones, release ‘feel-good’ hormone endorphins, and improve cholesterol levels, reducing the likelihood of heart blockages. Exercise trains the heart to handle stress and pump blood more efficiently, increasing its life and output, and keeping you energized throughout the day.

Let’s sum up

Really, push-ups are not as trivial as they might seem at first glance. The push-up test can help you identify the risks of heart disease and show the points to be concerned about. The heart is our engine, and by being able to boost its health with push-ups – an easy, accessible and cheap heart health indicator – we shouldn’t lose this opportunity.

Not enough? Here are some more from our colleagues

Dr. Michael Joyner, an anesthesiologist and expert in human performance at Mayo Clinic, discusses a recent study that examines whether pushups predict your future health on Mayo Clinic Radio.


Healthypedia FAQ

It is a physical assessment that measures the strength and endurance of the upper body by counting the number of press-ups a person can perform in one minute. This test may also be used to define a person’s fitness age.

You are able to perform fewer press-ups as you get older because of the decline in muscle mass and function.

It may be used as a biological marker of one's heart health as it measures muscular strength, which is associated with a lower heart disease risk. Lower stroke and cardiovascular disease risk are linked to 21-40 press-ups.

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