If asked to drop and give us 20, could you pump out the necessary number of push-ups? What about just 2? The answer to these questions can tell you more than whether you'd pass basic training. They can reveal a lot about your overall health — perhaps even more than traditional measures, like blood pressure and BMI. "Push-ups are another marker in a consistent story about whole-body exercise capacity and mortality," Michael Joyner, M.D., tells The Atlantic in an article deceptively titled, "The Power of One Push-Up." (It takes more than one to make a difference. Trust us. We checked.)
In the article, Dr. Joyner, an anesthesiologist and researcher at Mayo Clinic, weighs in on a recent study of firefighters that found "push-up abilities could predict heart disease." In fact, according to The Atlantic, "they were an even better predictor of cardiovascular disease than a submaximal treadmill test."
Sound suspicious? We thought so, too. But then we read Dr. Joyner's breakdown of just what makes the push-up so predictive. "If someone reads this article and starts doing push-ups, it would be a statement about their general conscientiousness and motivation," he tells the publication. "That speaks to so many other health behaviors. People who follow guidelines, eat well, get their kids vaccinated — they tend to engage in other healthy behaviors." And it's those healthy habits that reveal as much about mortality "as fitness itself," Dr. Joyner says.
If you're ready to become more conscientious (ahem, more fit), consider starting with some of these simple bodyweight exercises:
The bottom line: "Frailty, inactivity and low fitness do not bode well for people in the long run," Dr. Joyner tells Self. "Almost any bodyweight exercise or test of strength, coordination and fitness is highly predictive of lifespan."
You can brag about your feats of strength below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.