Most baby boomers and older adults are aware of the connection between muscle strength and the ability to live a vibrant, independent life. After all, if you can’t get out of a car, lift yourself off the toilet, or open jars and boxes, you’ll probably need assistance in your daily life.
But exciting new research is shedding light on one particular area that’s easy to work on—hand strength—and how it’s related to longevity and other positive health outcomes. Specifically, studies involving more than half a million participants and published in 2015 (American Journal of Preventive Medicine) and 2018 (BMJ) document these correlations. Researchers found an association between grip strength and cardiovascular, respiratory, blood sugar, and cancer outcomes. Grip strength has now been suggested as a measure of current health status and predictor of future outcomes, and a way to assess wellness in aging. It seems the stronger your hands, the healthier you are and the longer you’ll live. Researchers speculate that people with stronger hands lead more active lifestyles; that makes sense.
Here are five ways to increase your hand (grip) strength:
1) Holding heavy objects (for example, dumbbells) improves muscle strength in your hands. So if you’re doing any kind of strength building that involves your hands, continue! Or walk around your house carrying weights, or a gallon of milk or water.
2) “Tent” your fingers while doing exercises like planks and push-ups (this includes push-ups against a wall or done with your knees bent). Instead of placing your hands flat against the surface, bend your fingers slightly so there’s space between your palm and the floor/wall.
3) Go look for that “stress” ball you picked up at the doctor’s office or health fair last year. Squeeze as hard as you can and hold for a count of 5 before releasing.
4) Here’s a movement I love doing in the online exercise class I teach: grab a stretch band and hold the end in one hand with your arm extended. Scrunch the band in your fingers, working the band up so that it gets shorter and shorter. When the full length is in your hand, squeeze for 5 seconds and release. Repeat twice with each hand.
5) Try this fun rubber band stretch. Place a rubber band around the backs of your fingers, then open them as far as you can to strengthen your finger muscles. Repeat 5 times, being sure to resist the temptation to close your fingers quickly.
Don’t neglect this small part of your exercise routine. Keep your hands strong so you can enjoy all the activities that make your best life possible!
Are you looking for more ways to stay stay strong and independent? Please reach out to me for a consultation.