What's more than 40 pumps in a minute can do for the health of your heart?

If the last time you fell to the ground and you counted your efforts to take a break, it was during your high school gym class, you might want to read this.

Data suggests that, at least in men, the ability to pump large amounts of blood is correlated with good cardiovascular health, according to a new study by Harvard researchers at TH Chan School of Public Health and published in JAMA Network Open , a journal of the American Medical Association.

Men in the study who could perform more than 40 pumps had 96% fewer problems with cardiovascular disease, compared to those who had completed less than 10.

If 40 sounds more than your life, you do not lose a single session, do not despair.

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Even study participants whose numbers were 20 to 20 years ago found a significant decrease in cardiovascular risk, said Dr. Stefanos N. Kales, one of the authors of the study, Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Of course, some athletes would consider 40 pumps to be a break between two periods of physical exertion.

"For people who exercise a lot, it probably looks like," Wow, are you kidding? ", Says Kales.

He pointed out that thrust performance is a predictor of cardiovascular health and not necessarily a cause.

"It's probably not the push-up, per se," he said. "The push-up gives you an indication of what's going on under the hood."

The research was aimed at helping clinicians by demonstrating that a quick and simple test, requiring no equipment, could help screen for cardiovascular risks in patients, Kales said.

"This is not a unique solution, but it would probably cover a lot of people," he said. "[There is] no cost, and it could probably be done in about a minute. "

Kales said those seeking cardiovascular benefits should not immediately lie down and stretch out their arms. If your lifestyle is largely sedentary, start by talking to your doctor about what's right for you.

"I think it really depends on each person's point of departure and your current position," Kales said.

The Kales team analyzed data from 1,100 Indiana firefighters between the ages of 21 and 66 to determine the number of pumps that men could perform in about a minute during a routine examination.

The researchers then followed firefighters for 10 years to record any cardiovascular problems. During this decade, 37 study participants reported problems related to cardiovascular disease, which kill more people each year than any other cause, according to the World Health Organization.

Cardiovascular disease caused 18 million deaths in 2016, the latest year for which data are available, and accounted for about 31% of this year's deaths, according to WHO.

Firefighters in the study had an average age of less than 40 years and a body mass index of 28.7, which placed them well in the category "overweight", according to the guidelines of the BMI National Institutes of Health but slightly below the national average of 29.1 for men.

Dr. Malissa J. Wood, co-director of Corrigan's Cardiovascular Women's Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the population used in the study limited her ability to be generalized to other groups.

The bodies of men are different from women's bodies, she said, and firefighters are more active than the average American.

"I do not think it's a good test for people who do not exercise regularly. . . . Forty pumps for someone who has not done them at all is a daunting challenge, "said Wood, who did not participate in the study.

"It takes a lot of aerobic capacity to lift your own weight. . . so many times, "she said.

She hopes however that the study will encourage those who are able to make pumps to start doing more.

"Pumps are the best exercise you can do because it uses your arms, your trunk, your shoulders, your legs to a certain extent," said Wood.

Kales said that a similar tool could be used to filter out other groups, adding that he had observed similar correlations between fitness and graduation rates of female students in police academies of Massachusetts.

"Probably the same relationship is true for women, but it can be completely different numbers and perhaps even a different type of exercise," he said.

Kales said the push-up test should be considered as one tool among others for assessing health risks.

"It's an instant assessment, but the fact that you can do less than 10 pumps does not necessarily mean you're at high risk for heart disease. There may be other factors at work, "he said. "And the fact that you can do more than 40 does not mean you're low risk."

Jeremy C. Fox can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.

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