Above all, most of us learned to do pushups when we were young. Moreover, when you are that young, pushups were relatively easy to do.
Meanwhile, many decades later, it turns out pushups are more than just another exercise for your pecs, deltoids, triceps, and core muscles. In fact, a Harvard University study, recently reported in the Journal of American Medical Association, that pushups may be the canary for cardiovascular diseases. For instance, the study reported that firemen who could do over 40 pushups were 96 percent less likely to develop heart conditions when compared to those who could only do 40 pushups.
However, it’s not necessary for you to do over 40 pushups to see if you have a healthy cardiovascular system. In fact, being able to do just 11 pushups shows that your risk of heart disease is low. On the other hand, if you are not able to do even 10 pushups then your risk of heart disease may be high.
However, the Harvard study was just observational, meaning that you can’t assume that being able to do 11 pushups is a sign of good cardiovascular health. But, for anyone who regularly doesn’t get their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked, doing only 10 or less pushups, is a warning sign. In fact, it’s a sign that they need to go see a doctor.
Actually, the nice thing about pushups is that they are relatively easy to do and does not need expensive equipment. Meanwhile, the current method of evaluating cardiovascular health is the expensive and time-consuming cardiac exercise stress test using a treadmill. On the other hand, pushup count is a better measure of cardiovascular health that even the treadmill test. Also, the Harvard study found that pushup count is even better than aerobic capacity (as measured by the treadmill test) to evaluate cardiovascular health.
Extent of the Problem
Especially relevant, the World Health Organization estimates there are 17.9 million deaths, or about 31 percent of global deaths each year, from cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, factors that affect cardiovascular diseases include unhealthy diet, lack of physical exercise, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol.
Finally, since the Harvard study was based on male firefighters in their 30s and 40s, the findings may not apply to women or to older or younger men. Furthermore, firefighters are generally required to stay fit for their jobs. And this fitness may have been showcased by the excellent cardiovascular systems of firefighters who could do 41 pushups. So, the takeaway is that, even, you can help yourself by becoming fit.
Details of the Study
Meanwhile, for the purpose of the study, these pushups had to be done consecutively to the beat of a metronome set at 80 beats per minute. Furthermore, the counting stopped when the metronome reached 80 or if the firefighters missed 3 beats of the metronome, or the firefighters got too exhausted to continue.
Most of all, to be considered as having excellent cardiovascular health, firefighters needed to be able to do 41 or more pushups in about one minute. Indeed, to do that many pushups, you need to be fit. Which means, you are likely working out regularly. However, just focusing on cardio or aerobics alone won’t get you there – you also have to do resistance training to build up your upper body muscles.
Incidentally, it is also likely that you may not have done pushups for years or decades. Consequently, the first time you may not even be able to do a handful or even none. So, start by doing whatever you can and gradually increase it by doing cardio and strength workouts regularly. And, then there are those who have been leading a sedentary lifestyle. For them, the path is more difficult. However, there are ways to get started. And, then progress to recommendations in the previous paragraph.