Grip Strength's Relationship to Longevity

August 4, 2022

Since mobility enables older individuals to remain independent and active for longer, it is frequently emphasized as a critical indicator of healthy aging. According to a recent study, testing grip strength may be one approach to assess if mobility is still robust.

About the Study

A little over 5,000 women who participated in the Long Life Study, with an average age of 78, are examined in the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Over 5 years, their health markers were evaluated, including weight loss and gain, grip strength, balance, and gait speed. Higher grip strength was related to longer life regardless of weight change, and increased mortality was identified with weight reduction but not weight gain. Another important discovery was the role of balance and gait speed in longevity, especially when linked with grip strength.

"What this shows us is that the focus for older women shouldn't be on weight loss as a way to extend their lives, but instead on improving mobility and muscle strength," says lead author Lisa Underland, DO, at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York. "Higher physical functioning and higher grip strength were associated with lower mortality and lower risk of cardiovascular events, independent of weight change."

Better Grip for Everyone

The latest study expands on other studies that produced comparable findings. Grip strength is increasingly recognized as a crucial marker of healthy aging in both men and women. For instance, a 2019 research analysis in Clinical Interventions in Aging noted that grip strength is a distinct indicator of overall strength and that there are correlations with fracture risk, bone mineral density, and upper limb function. The investigation found that a person's grip strength has been correlated with physical limits, such as a reduced capacity to walk for at least 6 minutes, as well as brain health, depression, and nutritional status.

Another study matched grip strength assessments to mobility impairment and found a significant correlation, which was published in Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.
Regardless of other lifestyle habits or medical problems, men and women with handgrips under 32 kilos were 88% and 89% more likely, respectively, to have mobility impairments. This association arises from the fact that a firm grip demands some degree of muscle force.
It is also a sign of the body's overall muscular mass, particularly as people age and their muscle mass begins to deteriorate.

Exercises to Improve Grip Strength

Increased bone density, stronger connective tissues, and improved wrist and hand range of motion are all advantages of grip workouts.

"Although boosting strength overall can lead to improvements in grip, there's a benefit to focusing on your grip specifically [including improving bone density]," says strength and conditioning coach Rocky Snyder, CSCS, author of strength training guide Return to Center. Snyder suggests these exercises as a starting point:

  • Tennis ball squeeze: For 30 to 1 minute, repeatedly squeeze the tennis ball hard. increasing the number of sets every day.
  • Place two 5-pound weight plates together to form a plate pinch. Hold the plates down by your side while pinching them between your thumb and forefinger. Walk as far as you can without letting the plates slip from your grasp.
  • Take a walk while holding a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand to perform the farmer's carry. Continue until your hold is about to break.
  • Dead hang: Simply hang for as long as you can from a chin-up bar. You might start with a hold of 15 seconds and work your way up to lengthier holds a few times each week.

A few times a day of simple fists and finger and palm stretches can assist reduce hand tension and, in the long term, benefit your grip strength exercises.

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