Get a Grip on Aging: The Handshake Test Reveals Your Longevity Secret!

Ever wonder how well you’re fending off the effects of aging? Look no further than your own handshake. According to a study conducted at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the firmness of your grip can reveal the secrets to your longevity [1], and even help determine your risk for disability, memory loss, and resiliency.

Using data from 50 studies that covered people of all ages worldwide, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York found that hand-grip strength is a common and easily measured metric. “Hand-grip strength is easily measured and data on hand-grip strength now can be found in many of the most important surveys on aging worldwide,” says researcher Warren Sanderson.

The science behind the handshake

Your hand-grip strength is determined by two factors: the strength of your forearm muscles and the flexibility of your hand joints. When combined, these two factors create a solid grip that helps to maintain your quality of life as you age [2].

As we grow older, maintaining muscle mass and joint flexibility becomes increasingly important, as each play a vital role in keeping us healthy and independent. A strong grip is associated with maintaining the ability to perform daily tasks and avoid injury. On the other hand, a weak grip and poor muscle strength can signal a higher likelihood of falling, experiencing fractures, and cognitive decline down the line.

Why grip strength is so important

One of the key reasons grip strength is such an important indicator of overall health is that it directly affects your quality of life as you age. From opening jars to navigating stairs, a solid grip is essential for both basic and complex daily tasks.

Additionally, hand-grip strength is linked to your heart health. In a 2015 study, researchers found that for every five-kilogram decline in grip strength, there was a 17% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a 9% higher risk of stroke, and a 7% higher risk of heart attack [3]. These results indicate that maintaining a strong grip can play a vital role in staving off heart-related issues later in life.

How to improve your grip strength

The good news is that losing grip strength isn’t a foregone conclusion. Through targeted exercises, you can rebuild lost muscle and maintain a powerful handshake well into your golden years.

  1. Squeezing exercises: Squeezing a stress ball is a simple and effective way to boost your grip strength. Aim for three sets of 10 squeezes each day for the best results.

  2. Pinch grip training: Using a pinch grip, lift small weights or household items for three sets of 15-30 seconds at a time. This will help strengthen the muscles in your fingers, thumbs, and wrists.

  3. Hand extensor training: Slip an elastic band around your fingers and gently stretch them apart for three sets of 10 pulls each day. This strengthens the opposing muscles necessary for a solid grip.

  4. Farmer’s walk: Grab a set of dumbbells and walk around for a set distance or time, focusing on maintaining a strong grip. Emphasize proper form, keeping your shoulders back and down throughout the exercise.

  5. Wrist curls: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms, then gently curl your wrists up and down for three sets of 10 repetitions. This strengthens your forearms and helps stabilize your wrists.

Implement some of these exercises into your daily routine, and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a strong grip and a higher quality of life in your later years. Of course, be sure to consult with your healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen.

The bottom line

Your grip strength is about more than just a firm handshake. It’s a key indicator of your overall health as you age, impacting daily tasks, independence, and heart health. By focusing on maintaining or improving your grip, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the challenges of aging with grace and vitality.