Hand Grip Strength

‘A SOUND MIND in a sound body’ is a famous statement about the link between exercise and brain health. Exercise has been proved in numerous research projects to boost cognitive ability. Researchers are even using body strength to predict brain health in a new study showing that grip strength is a reliable indicator of one’s mental health and can be used to detect problems before other symptoms appear. Yet as we age, we tend to get reduced hand circulation and often notice a feeling of stiffness in the fingers.

A basic gym routine is the most obvious answer to preserving your strength. It would include various forms of weight training and sit-ups – but everything can impact your strength. To maintain natural strength and focus, here is one thing I recommend that will take years off your appearance.

Wrist Strength

A firm handshake in business is essential. Experts believe the decline in grip power is part of the overall loss of muscle strength, which starts in our 40s and accelerates in our 70s. We lose between 3 and 5 per cent of muscle mass per decade.

Weakening grip strength has been associated with an overall loss of power and can provide valuable insight into an individual’s risk of future disease. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found poor grip was a sign of cognitive impairment, which leads to dementia.

Each 5kg reduction in grip strength – for reference, a 30-year-old man has a grip strength of about 40kg on average – was associated with an 18 per cent greater chance of severe cognitive impairment.

A US study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Ageing concluded that grip strength is a predictive marker of bone density, fractures, falls, cognition, depression, sleep and mortality.

You never see gym-goers exercising to maintain grip strength; instead, they focus on superficial muscles to look good. This means your grip can become neglected, and you will only realise it has deteriorated when it affects your day-to-day life, such as when you struggle to open jars or lift something awkwardly.

A seemingly simple manoeuvre like gripping is a very complex action. It involves two muscles that run from the forearm across the wrist into the fingers, called the superficial and the profundus (these help us flex our fingers) and smaller muscles inside the hand that stabilise the wrist joint and help with dexterity.

When we grip something, all these muscles shorten, pulling the fingers into the palm while holding the wrist in a fixed position, so it doesn’t move. Just like other muscles in our body, if we don’t exercise those in our arms and hands that control grip strength, they can quickly decline.

The ability to grip is one reason humans have been so successful. Our grip sets us apart from other mammals because we can use our thumb to hold tools, for instance. Losing the ability to use our thumb removes about 75 per cent of the function of the whole arm.

Medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and trapped nerves can also affect our grip strength. It’s a case of ‘use it or lose it. If you want to retain your grip strength, regular exercise is one way.

Handgrip exercise has the following advantages:

1.   Builds forearm strength – Training using a tennis ball can improve your forearm circumference, leading to more muscular arms.

2.   Helps to avoid injuries – Grip strength workouts tone your hands and forearms, lowering your chance of injury while participating in activities like tennis and weightlifting.

3.   Strengthens your hands – Handgrip exercise, without a doubt, contributes to increasing hand endurance. It increases the resistance on your hand, which forces you to apply power to grow muscle and strength.

4.   Provides greater dexterity – Handgrip training also helps develop agility by allowing fingers to grow independently. 

Exercise Suggestion

Even though it might not seem like much, squeezing a tennis ball is a good way to strengthen your intrinsic hand muscles. Wrap your fingers around the ball and squeeze as hard as you can. Hold for about 5 seconds and do this ten times.

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