41 Pushups = Immortality (We Wish)

A recent article in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) seems to suggest something like this. The article is strange on many levels.

A recent JAMA article, found here, investigates how the ability of firemen to do pushups prevents them from having heart attacks. Now, it is 100% clear and provable that the correct forms of exercise, diligently applied, will almost completely prevent cardiac events. Correct and diligent are the key phrases here—more in a bit—but pushups aren’t part of the formula.

This JAMA article is apparently being quoted all over the internet, and probably has half the country working on those pushups.

It is really too bad they chose pushups. First, this exercise is somewhat peripheral to the incredible health benefits of correct exercise, and second, the firemen that could manage 31-40 pushups had a higher rate of heart events than the presumably less- fit group that could only manage 21-30. More pushups = more cardiac events! Who ordered that?

Yet, even with this statistical gorilla roaming the raw data, the authors manage to conclude, “Participants able to complete more than 40 push-ups were associated with a significant reduction in incident cardiovascular disease event risk compared with those completing fewer than 10 push-ups.” However, a considerably more valid conclusion would be “Participants able to complete 31-40 push-ups were associated with a significant increase in incident cardiovascular disease event risk compared with those completing 21-30 push-ups.” Why more valid? Because, those two groups had

~10 cardiac events. But the over-40 pushup group had only one cardiac event, and as every schoolgirl knows: a sample size of one doth not a statistical study make. (In fact, 10 is pretty weak.)

The unfortunate 31-40 pushup group had a greater rate of heart events than the group that could manage only 21-30. Well over 50% more! Now to us, this seems quite enough to toss the study in the wastebasket—pushups are clearly no measure of heart health. No need for statistical magic. But maybe there is an interesting explanation. Unfortunately, a thorough perusal of the article fails to elicit any such clarification on this interesting anomaly. The authors simply chose to ignore it.

Sample size is another good reason to toss the paper.

Before we move on, there is one more puzzler: what are guys that can’t do more than 10 pushups doing as firemen?

Exercise and Heart Health

Exercise is good for you. Everyone knows that, but few do it. Everyone knows that too. What few know is that the particulars of the exercise are of major importance. Brisk walking or 45 minutes on a treadmill do not begin to have the benefits of the recommended Quantitative Medicine (QM) protocols. However time-wise, the QM program can be accomplished in two to three hours/week. Rather intense hours to be sure, but not really many of them. In fact, this buys longevity, healthy longevity too, and it’s a bargain. On average, you’ll get 8 additional hours of life for every hour you put in.

So how does this work?

The heart needs to be stressed to be healthy, stressed to the maximum if possible. Blood needs to roar through the arteries at a high rate. (Though perfectly safe for most people, get your doc’s OK first.) Stressing to the maximum means doing something like running as hard as you can up a steep hill four or five times—a hill where, on the first all-out try, you get to the finish line in 30 seconds. If you have any energy left for the fourth try, you weren’t trying hard enough.

This is just an example. There are others elsewhere on this site, or the book of the same name.

Needless to say, cardiac health is far from the sole benefit of the QM exercise protocols. Cancer risk is reduced as well, though less so. Coordination is improved, joint health significantly improved. Osteoporosis can be reversed. There is a significant reduction in dementias.

A complete discussion of how to accomplish all this can be found in the QM book, or here.

If you want to do pushups too, go ahead. In spite of the bizarre data in the JAMA paper, it can’t hurt. Just don’t expect immortality (or much else).

Beyond Immortality

PS We offer this piece as a kind of intellectual-history lesson. Many commonly believed ideas enter the realm of universal belief because they are not challenged enough early in their lives. For example, there was not enough early, well deserved push back on the cholesterol hypothesis and it has now become an enormous medico-pharmacological industry.

Don’t be quoting push-up immortality at the watercooler.

  3 comments for “41 Pushups = Immortality (We Wish)

  1. Larry Hughes
    March 14, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    I had to chuckle when I heard about this study. First of all, any one who exercises should be able to crank out 40 push-ups without much effort. Secondly, there are many more groups of muscle that need to be exercised to achieve better health. I would think that everyone should look to strengthen all of the core muscles and for those of us aging, we need to focus on muscles that lead to better balance. I like to look at both aerobics and strength training. Basically, ……..”get off the couch and get moving!!”

    • Louise
      May 19, 2019 at 11:28 am

      I work out and cannot do any pushups. The bone spurs in my shoulders hurt too much.

  2. Michael J Westcott
    March 15, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Anyone who exercises should be able to crank out 40 push-ups without much effort….really? Did you read the study, the metronome was set at 80 per minute. That’s 40 push ups in 30 seconds. Very, very few individuals, even in great condition, will be able to knock that out.

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