Many health and fitness experts and the scientific research agree:
Your most important set of muscles are in your hands and wrists.
The stronger they grip, the longer you’ll probably live.
This Association Makes Sense in Two Ways:
1. The stronger your grip strength, the more you probably exercise – or have exercised.
Whether you lift weights, hoe weeds in your garden or swim laps, you’re strengthening your hand, wrist and forearm muscles while you also get the health benefits of all that physical activity.
2. The stronger your grip, the more prepared you are to deal with the adverse circumstances of old age.
The leading cause of injury-related deaths past age 65 is falls.
Therefore, the ability to hold yourself up when you stumble is critical.
Three months ago, I slipped in the snow and broke my ankle. (Hey, I had nothing to grab.) Until ten days ago, I wore a heavy support “boot” on my right foot – and got around with crutches.
Using crutches requires strength from your hands and wrists. So do walkers and canes.
I needed to use my hands much more than usual to do the simple tasks of standing up, lying down and sitting. I could stand with my weight all on my left foot, but that’s not stable, so needed my hands to reach out to whatever support was available.
Try getting in and out of your bathtub with just one foot. You need hand and arm strength, and must still be careful not to fall. Slip up, and you could soon learn why the bathroom is the most dangerous room in your house.
I developed a greater appreciation for what my old college friend Doug had to deal with. When he was a very small boy, a hunter shot him in the lower back, so he grew up in a wheelchair. That was back before anybody had heard of “accessibility,” especially for a boy pushing his wheelchair through the woods and fields of rural Arkansas to keep up with his friends.
When I knew him, Doug had massive forearms that Popeye envied. He sometimes needed help getting from a street up to the sidewalk (even in a college town), but otherwise could do everything for himself.
Most Seniors are Already Losing Muscle When They Begin Needing It More
Support rails and grips are great, but only if you have enough strength to take advantage of them.
If you can’t hold your weight, you can still fall.
Or you’ll need help getting up from your chair.
Besides, you don’t have to be frail or injured to benefit from greater grip strength. You want to open jars without a pipe wrench and lift your carry-on baggage into overhead storage.
As we age, we gradually lose muscle mass, so we aren’t as strong as before. It’s called sarcopenia.
Look for the famous picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger shirtless in his 50s. Then remember that although he’s losing more muscle than you and I, he’ll still have a lot more muscle than you and I leftover.
Handgrip strength is used as a medical measure of both frailty and sarcopenia.
In other words, the time to develop new hand and wrist muscle strength is now, before you lose what you still have.
NOTE: Losing excess weight doesn’t strengthen your hands, but it makes what strength you have more effective. So lose it.
Higher Grip Strength is Also Correlated with Other Health Benefits
According to one study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, higher grip strength also meant:
* Lower blood pressure
* Lower blood sugar
* Higher levels of LDL good cholesterol
Other studies have found a correlation between a strong grip and a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Maybe it’s just the exercise, or maybe it’s more.
Still, clearly, everybody should exercise their hands, wrists, and forearms.
There’re Many Obvious and Traditional Ways to Exercise Your Hands and Wrists
1. You can buy small, one-handed dumbells – and lift them up and down with your wrists.
Do that both ways. That is, with the dumbell horizontal and with it held vertically.
2. You can squeeze small rubber balls.
They’re good because you can use them while watching TV or listening to podcasts.
3. Spend time carrying heavy things around.
Instead of driving to the supermarket, walk – and carry your groceries home in cloth sacks.
Or occasionally carry a few heavy rocks, bricks or concrete blocks around.
You could take up bricklaying as a hobby, but that’s not for most of us.
But many people climb steep rock faces for fun, using only their fingers and hands to keep themselves from falling hundreds of feet.
Look for a rock climbing facility in your area that offers Minimum Edge Training. These places keep many differently sized edges and protrusions you can practice with. That is, you’re training your grip to hold your weight under increasingly difficult and arduous circumstances.
This Exercise Also Relieves Shoulder Pain
That’s overhead hanging.
Find a bar, pipe or tree branch far enough off the ground so you can grab onto it with both hands, palms facing out.
Just hold yourself there as long as you can, arms straight. Don’t move. Just let your hands hold your body’s weight. Repeat several times until your muscles really need a rest.
Then do it again, day after day.
Your big problem may be finding a suitable bar to hang from. Check with gyms or a children’s playground (when it’s empty). If a pipe or bar is good, just too low, raise your knees so your feet are off the ground.