New Harvard Study: Reduce 96% Risk of Heart Disease with Push-ups

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Guess how many push-ups you have to do to reduce your risk of heart disease by 96%?


The answer is 40.



According to a new Harvard study published in JAMA Network Open, middle-aged men who can do more than 40 push-ups in a row are 96% less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those who can do less than 10.


How’s the study carried out?


From 2000 to 2010, researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health collected 1,104 active males to record their performances in a push-up test and track their health conditions.


The average age of the participants was 39.6 years old, ranging from 21 to 66, and mean body mass index (BMI) was 28.7.


The participants were asked to do push-ups with a metronome set at 80 beats per minute. They continued doing push-ups until they “reached 80, missed 3 or more beats of the metronome, or stopped owing to exhaustion.”


The researchers then kept monitoring the participants’ health conditions over the following decade.



What’s the result?


Among the 1,104 participants, 37 CVD-related outcomes were reported, all but one occurred in men who completed 40 or fewer push-ups during the baseline exam.


According to the researchers’ calculation, men who were able to do 40 push-ups or more had a 96% reduced risk of CVD events compared with those who did less than 10 push-ups. The more push-ups men can do more than 10, the less likely you’ll suffer from a CVD.


To give a clearer sum up or the push-up/CVD study:


  • 10 push-ups or less: not good for your heart
  • 11-20: your risk for heart disease is reduced
  • 21-30: the risk is 75% reduced compared with men able to do less than 10 push-ups
  • 40 or more: the risk is 96% reduced compared with the less-than-10 group.


“Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting.” Said Dr Justin Yang, the first author of the study. He also clarified that push-up capacity was more strongly associated with CVD risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests.


Research on women and men in other ages might be carried out in the future.



What is CVD and why should it be prevented?


CVD (cardiovascular disease) is a general term to describe disorders that can affect the heart (cardio) and/or the body’s system of blood vessels (vascular).


CVD has been the No.1 cause of death for Americans, according to the newest survey.


Types of CVD


Coronary hear disease (CHD) and coronary artery disease (CAD): disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart.


Cerebrovascular disease: disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain.


Peripheral vascular disease: disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs.


Congenital heart disease.


Valvular disease: defects in the structure or function of a heart valve.


Cardiomyopathy: weakening of the heart muscle.


Vasculitis: inflammation of blood vessels.


Blood clots that develop in the veins and that detach and go to other organs.


Atrial fibrillation: quivering or irregular heartbeat.


Risk factors of CVD




Age (the risk increases with age)


Gender (men are generally more likely to have CVD; women’s risk increases to that of men’s after menopause)


Family history




High blood pressure


High blood cholesterol




No exercise




How to do a standard push-up?


On the ground, set your hands at a distance that is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. If you feel pain in your wrists (the flexibility of your wrists might not be good), use push-up handles.




Set your feet in a way that feels comfortable and in balance.


Think of your body as one giant straight line.


Your head should be looking slightly ahead of you, not straight down.


At the top of your push-up, your arms should be straight and supporting your weight.


Don’t make your arms out far too wide and the shoulders flared. Your arms and body should form an arrow, not a T, if looking down at you from above.



If you cannot do it yet, pushing up on your knees will be easier.

3 Answers

These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.
I can't do even one push-up, but I'm female, as I having great risk of heart attack?
Push-ups are physically easier for men to do than women, therefore one thing is for sure: you don't need to do as many push-ups to protect your heart. However, exercising is certainly one of the best way to benefit your cardiovascular health, so try to exercise (like yoga, jogging, and dancing) for 30 - 40 mins, 4 - 5 days per week.
Great. I'll tell my boyfriend. He's too heavy to do even one. He must do something.
A study of nearly half a million people has found for the first time that those with heart or blood vessel problems benefit more from having a physically active lifestyle than do healthy people without cardiovascular disease (CVD).                       

Increased physical activity reduced the risk of dying during a six-year follow-up period for people with and without CVD, but the researchers found the greatest reduction in risk was in people with CVD and this continued to reduce the more exercise they did.         

So, get moving!