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Healthy Aging

Give grip strength a hand

November 09, 2016

Your ability to grab, hold, twist , and squeeze is essential for many everyday functions.

hand grip
Image: JannHuizenga/Thinkstock

Think how much you rely on a strong grip every day. It helps you open cans, grip a golf club, hold a steering wheel, brush your teeth, and pick up a grandchild. "The ability to stay active and independent often begins with our hands," says Maria Cole, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Outpatient Center. "Weak grip strength can limit your enjoyment of many life pleasures, so you need to ensure your hand and grip strength always are up to the task."

A measure of health

A grip on mobility

Grip strength also may predict your future loss of mobility. A May 2014 study in The Journal of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences analyzed data from more than 20,000 adults ages 65 and older to evaluate the link between weak grip strength and lack of mobility, in this case slow walking speed.

Among the men in the group, those with a weak grip—less than 26 kg using a dynamometer—were seven times more likely to be facing mobility issues compared with men who had normal grip strength.

You can take steps to improve grip strength and possibly avoid problems down the road. "You need to exercise your hands and wrists just like every other part of your body to keep them strong and supple," says Cole.

Exercise your hands

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