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How to do 22 push-ups if you can't even do one

Posted September 5

People all over the internet are doing 22 push-ups to draw attention to the problem of suicide among veterans. If you can't even do one, here's what you can do. (Deseret Photo)

Anyone can dump a bucket of water on his head, but not everyone can do a push-up, let alone 22. But that's the latest challenge making the rounds on social media in support of a sobering cause, suicide among America's veterans.

About 22 veterans take their lives every day, according the veterans' support group Honor Courage Commitment, which encourages people to post a video of themselves doing 22 push-ups and post it on social media with the hashtag #22pushupchallenge.

The group hopes to reach 22 million push-ups, according to a CNN report that suggests the effort could rally as much support as the viral Ice Bucket Challenge that raised millions for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research.

AJ Willingham of CNN notes, however, that the 22 million figure is dated and somewhat misleading.

A 2012 report from the Department of Veteran Affairs concluded that about 22 veterans committed suicide each day during 2010, but that their average age was between 54.5 and 59.6, the demographic at highest risk for suicide among men whether they are veterans or not.

Another study put the figure slightly lower — 20 per day — and another said it could be as low as one per day for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, it's true that veterans as a group are at higher risk of suicide than people with no military service, Willingham wrote, and the challenge is rightly bringing attention to how people can support them.

But what if you, unlike celebrities Chris Pratt, John Krasinski and Chris Evans, can't do 22 push-ups, or 20, or, for that matter, even one?

It's among the activities that the government's Physical Activity Guidelines suggest we do a couple of times a week, and The New York Times' Tara Parker-Pope calls the push-up "the ultimate barometer of fitness" because it stresses muscles in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs.

The website Livestrong says that it's not just people who don't exercise who can't do push-ups; others may be unable to perform them because of shoulder instability or poor form.

Regardless, if you can't do even one, know that you have plenty of company and you can build up to one by doing a few other exercises, such as the "negative push-up" recommended by trainer Kathleen Trotter in The Globe and Mail.

To do a negative push-up, Trotter says, get in push-up position, then lower yourself as slowly as possible, then get back up, using your knees and feet. (Here's a video.)

From there, you can progress to modified push-ups, like one from your knees (sometimes derisively called a girl pushup) and incline push-ups, building up to the classic one from your toes.

Until then, show your support for veterans in other ways.

The website serve.gov recommends visiting wounded vets at the hospital, offering them your home-repair skills or professional expertise, delivering meals and care packages, and offering rides through the Disabled American Veterans organization — all acts of love and appreciation, with no upper-body strength needed.

EMAIL: jgraham@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @grahamtoday

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