In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

July 16, 2019

Can Push Ups Predict Your Future?

By In the Loop

Push-ups can reveal a lot about your overall health — perhaps even more than traditional measures. Michael Joyner, M.D., shares what makes the push-up so predictive.

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:

  • Squats. This exercise mimics the motion used to get in and out of a chair. "To do this repeatedly, you have to have quad strength, balance and also some endurance," Dr. Joyner tells Self.
  • Brisk walking. "The distance people can walk in six minutes is highly correlated with aerobic capacity," he tells the magazine. "High aerobic capacity means the heart and lungs are in good shape."
  • Push-ups. "Most people could get to the point of doing 30 or 40," Dr. Joyner tells The Atlantic.

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.


Tags: Dr. Michael Joyner, Health and Wellness, Heart Disease, research

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