Becoming proficient at pushups — 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.

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At the start of the study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, they had a physical exam and testing that included doing pushups. 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 pushups 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 pushups they could do, the lower their rate of cardiovascular incidents.

Those able to do more than 40 pushups 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.

Pushups 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.

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