Push-Up Exercise Capacity and Cardiovascular Disease Events in Male Firefighters

Bottom Line: A study of male Indiana firefighters suggests that push-up capacity may be associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, including coronary artery disease, heart failure or sudden cardiac death. In this observational study of more than 1,100 firefighters, incidence of CVD was reduced for each increase in 10 push-ups. However the association between push-up capacity and reduced CVD remained only for the 21-to-30 push-up category after accounting for age and body mass index (BMI) and wasn’t evident after accounting for maximal oxygen consumption, a physiologic measure of fitness. The findings suggest that low push-up capacity is a risk factor for CVD, but not independent of age, BMI, and oxygen consumption. Researchers caution the results may not generalize to others, including women and people who are inactive, because the study group consisted of middle-aged men who were active on the job. Larger studies with more diverse groups of people are needed to understand if push-up capacity can be used as an objective clinical tool to help assess patients and if it can provide useful information beyond standard assessments of age and BMI.

Authors: Stefanos N. Kales, M.D., M.P.H., Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, and coauthors

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