In this age of high-powered fitness regimens, it’s often forgotten that simple exercise and strength training techniques can still work wonders on your body.
Consider, for example, push-ups. You don’t need a Nautilus machine or even an exercise mat to do them. You can do push-ups while waiting for the bus or subway, or standing in line to buy tickets to a show. You can do them practically anywhere.
And it turns out that they’re great for you.
How great? A just-released study finds that men who do at least 40 push-ups daily have a greatly reduced risk of heart disease.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who claim theirs is the first to link push-ups to heart disease. Their study compared middle-aged men who do 40 or more consecutive push-ups daily to those who do just 10 or less.
The men in the first group had a 96% reduced risk of developing heart disease or another heart-related ailment, while those on the second group saw a much lower reduction in risk.
For the study, the researches analyzed health data from over a thousand active firefighters collected annually from 2000 to 2010. Also, to push-ups, the firefighters had exercised on a treadmill.
Somewhat surprisingly, the researchers found that the cardiovascular benefits derived from push-ups were greater than from the treadmill exercise, even though the latter is more explicitly focused on cardio training,
“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 study co-author, Justin Yang, an occupational medicine resident at T.H.Chan, in a news release.
While provocative, the T.H. Chan study had some obvious limitations. The sample was comprised of a single age and gender demographics as well as one physically active occupational specialty. It’s not clear if other less active groups of men or women would report the same benefits.
Also, the researchers tested for health risk simply by comparing those that developed heart problems during the ten years of study and those that did not.
No other information on the health status of the firefighters — including possible pre-existing health conditions, or their diet and nutrition habits — was available.
Still, the contrast in health outcomes between the two push-up groups was sufficiently stark to suggest that push-ups could well play an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease.
And that’s of course, in addition to their impact on your muscle strength and endurance. That impact is felt everywhere, not just in your chest and arms. Push-ups are a great form of all-round exercise, engaging the body from top to bottom, including your abdomen, hips, and legs.
Push-ups can also be easily adjusted to fit your current strength and fitness. You can maintain the same number of repetitions or increase them as your ability grows. You can also vary the speed at which you perform a push-up, the angle of your body, and even your hand placement to focus on specific muscle groups.
The T.H. Chan study highlighted the greater health benefits of those performing 40 or more push-ups. But the 10-40 push-up group also showed a reduction in the risk of heart disease — just not as great.
In the final analysis, doing some push-ups daily, however few, in whatever fashion suits you, is better than doing no push-ups at all, the study suggests.