The Number of Push-Ups You Can Do May Predict Your Heart Disease Risk

A new study says being able to knock out 40 push-ups signals a significantly lower chance of heart disease.

The Number of Push-Ups You Can Do May Predict Your Heart Disease Risk

Doing push-ups every day can do more than give you great guns-it may help lower your risk for heart disease, according to a new study in JAMA Network Open. The report says being able to knock out at least 40 push-ups means your risk for cardiovascular disease is roughly 96 percent lower than that of people who can only churn out a few.

For the study, Harvard researchers put more than 1,100 active firemen through a max push-up rep test. The researchers monitored the group's health for 10 years, and they reported 37 health scares related to cardiovascular disease-but only one was in the group of guys who could do at least 40 push-ups during the baseline exam.

"If you're physically fit, your chances of a heart attack or cardiac event are automatically lower than someone with your same risk factors who isn't active," says Sanjiv Patel, M.D., cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, who was not affiliated with the study. (You should also take a peek at your resting heart rate.)

Doctors already know this; one of the best risk predictors cardiologists currently use is the treadmill stress test. And if you can do well on one physical test, you'll probably do well on the other, says Dr. Patel. However, these treadmill tests are expensive to run. Counting push-ups, on the other hand, is a cheap and easy way to get a general sense of where you stand on risk range, he says.

"I'm not sure what's special about 40 compared to 30 or 20-but compared to, say, 10, being able to do a lot of push-ups says you're in very good shape," Dr. Patel explains. (

Take note: The study authors emphasize that because their paper only looked at men, they can't confirm the test would hold true for women's heart disease risk-and Dr. Patel agrees. So if 40 push-ups sounds like a lot, don't sweat it. If women can hit similar levels of physical exertion, they're probably protected as well, says Dr. Patel.

It's impossible to say what the equivalent safe rep range is for females, but we know that every push-up helps: "If you don't have any risk factors like diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, the two biggest things a cardiologist will look at is physical activity and family history," says Dr. Patel.

If your parent or sibling had a heart attack before 50 for males or before 60 for females, you should talk to your doc, along with ensuring you get adequate sleep (fewer than five hours a night ups your risk by 39 percent) and getting an annual blood pressure and cholesterol check. (Find out five simple ways to prevent heart disease.)

But if you work out regularly, you're definitely safer than most. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30 to 40 percent and the risk of stroke by 20 percent, according to the American Heart Association.

Then learn how to do a proper push-up, and get cranking. Those 40 aren't going to do themselves.

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