Harvard Study Says If You Can Do This Many Push-Ups, You Probably Won’t Die From Heart Disease

It’s the magic number.

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How much you bench, bro? Just kidding, no one cares. What really matters when it comes to overall health and longevity, according to a new Harvard study, is how many push-ups you can do in one timed set. 

Many will hope and pray the number is 25-30—which according to some Maxim editors are perfectly decent numbers—but science apparently says it’s 40 actual push-ups.

Via Brobible comes news of the study “Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men,” published in February 2019 by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study was done over a period of ten years and reviewed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

Using the “records of active career firefighters from 10 Indiana fire departments,” researchers asked, “Is there an … objective measurement that clinicians can use to assess the association between fitness and cardiovascular disease risk?” 

They took a look at the results of their physicals and found something interesting: Out of the “1,104 occupationally active adult men” participating, there was “a significant negative association between baseline push-up capacity and incident cardiovascular disease risk across 10 years of follow-up.”

To put it plainly: Guys who completed more than 40 push-ups were likely to live longer and have healthier hearts. 


It wasn’t like they made it easy, either. Consider the way the exam was conducted and ask yourself how you’d do:

For push-ups, the firefighter was instructed to begin push-ups in time with a metronome set at 80 beats per minute.

Clinic staff counted the number of push-ups completed until the participant reached 80, missed 3 or more beats of the metronome, or stopped owing to exhaustion or other symptoms (dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, or shortness of breath).

Numbers of push-ups were arbitrarily divided into 5 categories in increments of 10 push-ups for each category.

Unless you’re hitting the old CrossFit Box six days a week, that’s got to sound a little tiring to a lot of men. 

In their study discussion, researchers put a fine point on what they found: “[Push-up] capacity, a simple, no-cost measure, may provide a surrogate estimate of functional status among middle-aged men. Participants able to perform 11 or more push-ups at baseline had significantly reduced risk of subsequent CVD events.”

To be clear: CVD=Cardiovascular disease.

There are plenty of other ways to improve cardiovascular health, it isn’t all about push-ups. There’s the Mediterranean Diet, cardio in general, strength training and cardio. 

But let’s admit it: there’s a timeless sense of accomplishment in knocking out a solid 50 push-ups if you can eventually get there (because ten extra is great insurance). 

For a real challenge watch the dude in the second video above. Then go lay down, because his routine is exhausting enough for a lifetime.