Becoming proficient at push-ups — being able to do 40 or more — does more than help strengthen your upper body. It also might help stave off cardiovascular problems, especially if you’re a man. That was the finding of a study, led by doctors at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, that compared the cardiovascular health of 1,104 active adult men over a 10-year span. All participants were firefighters, with an average age of 40. At the start of the study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, they had a physical exam and testing that included doing push-ups. In the next decade, 37 of the men experienced a cardiovascular problem, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure or sudden cardiac death. Those who had done 11 or more push-ups at the start of the study were less likely to have had a subsequent cardiovascular problem than were men who did 10 or fewer. And the higher their fitness level, based on how many push-ups they could do, the lower their rate of cardiovascular incidents. Those able to do more than 40 push-ups experienced the greatest risk reduction — a 96 percent reduced risk of heart trouble in comparison to those who were able to do only 10 or fewer. Whether the finding would apply to other groups — women, older people and those who are less active — was not tested.

Push-ups earn praise from fitness experts for a range of reasons. Doing push-ups works muscles throughout your body, builds your core strength and burns calories. Plus, you can do them anywhere, anytime, with no need for a gym membership or special equipment.

— Linda Searing