Get a Grip! (it may save your life!)

Think how much you rely on a strong grip every day. It helps you open tight jars, grip a golf club, brush your teeth, and pick up a grandchild. But did you know, the strength of your handgrip is also an important indicator of your overall health and wellbeing? Research has previously shown that lower grip strength is associated with weaker shoulder strength, (potentially increasing your risk of shoulder pain and injury) and reduced lower limb strength and slower walking speed in older adults. However, more alarmingly, weak hand-grip strength, puts you at an increased risk for having a heart attack or stroke, suffering from a respiratory disease, or dying from cardiovascular disease!

In a recent study published in the Lancet, researchers measured grip strength in nearly 140,000 adults in 17 countries and followed their health for an average of four years.  The findings showed that a 5kg decline in grip strength was associated with a 17% increased risk of dying from a heart attack, and a 7% and 9% chance of having a heart attack or stroke, respectively, over a four-year period. And even when the researchers accounted for variables such as known risk factors such as older age, smoking, low physical activity and other factors, connections between grip strength and death or cardiovascular disease still remained. In fact, grip strength was shown to be a better predictor of death or cardiovascular disease than blood pressure!

So why is this? One possible reason is that a stronger grip may indicate greater muscle mass, which in turn, results from increased activity and overall health. And healthier people in general have lower risks for heart disease and stroke!

Being stronger, also allows you to function better, walk longer and faster (and subsequently improve your heart and lung health) and prolong your ability to undertake basic activities of daily living well into older age. Once again, having a stronger grip is essential, as shown in this study, which evaluated more than 20,000 adults ages 65 and older to measure the link between weak grip strength and lack of mobility (slow walking speed). Alarmingly, the males in the group who possessed a weak grip (defined as less than 26 kg using a dynamometer were 7 times more likely to be facing mobility issues compared with men who had normal grip strength. In women, a weak grip (defined as less than 16kg) were 3 times more likely to be facing mobility issues compared to women with normal strength.

Testing your hand-grip strength regularly can help to monitor this decline and can provide an indication of risk. Furthermore, by simply incorporating resistance training to your exercise routine, or even adding some gripping exercises (such as using a stress ball), can improve your overall health and function, and slow down the ageing process.

Checking your grip strength is quick and simple, and can be measured using a hand-held device called a dynamometer – a tool which is readily available at HFRC, and literally takes 10 seconds!

For more information or to find out your grip strength, speak to Peter Edwards or one of our friendly Exercise Physiologists. Contact HFRC at





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