Are you losing your grip? As you age, you may find yourself dropping more things and wondering why the lid on your peanut butter jar is screwed on so tight.
While a few gray hairs are no big deal, having strong hands may be more important than you think. Many studies show that a weak grip is associated with increased risk for heart conditions, dementia, and other health issues.
You can slow down and even reverse the effects of aging on your hands. Find out more about how to keep your hands healthy in your senior years.
Benefits of Strong Hands:
- Remain independent. Muscle mass is the reason behind the close relationship between grip strength and overall health. To stay active, it’s important to work at overcoming the natural loss of muscle that accompanies aging.
- Protect your heart. Would you believe that grip strength is more important than blood pressure in predicting heart disease? Strong hands reduce your risk for heart attacks and strokes.
- Stay sharp. One study found that an 11% drop in handgrip puts you at a 10% higher risk for severe cognitive impairment. Taking care of your hands may also enhance your memory and other mental skills.
- Cope with arthritis. Doing exercises for your fingers and wrists will reduce inflammation caused by arthritis. You may enjoy greater mobility and less discomfort without having to take medication.
- Boost your energy. Fatigue is not an inevitable part of aging. Increased muscle mass makes it easier to stay active and do the things you love. It may also help you to burn more calories and avoid gaining weight.
- Recover faster. As you grow older, you’re probably concerned about how long it will take you to recover from surgery, illnesses, or accidents. You may be able to speed up the process by staying fit.
Ways to Strengthen Your Hands:
- Test yourself. You can get a rough estimate of your grip strength just by noticing how much effort it takes for you to pull a zipper or open a jar. For a more precise reading, buy a hand dynamometer or ask your doctor to test you during your next visit.
- Do push ups. Many upper body exercises will give your hands and wrists a workout too. That includes pushups, planks, pullups, and just about anything that requires you to hold a dumbbell or barbell.
- Flex your wrists. For powerful wrists, you can also do curls. Sit down with your wrist hanging close to the edge of your knee and flex your wrist up and then back down to a neutral position. Do at least one set each with your palms up and with your palms down.
- Target your fingers. There are also a variety of exercises you can do with just your fingers and thumbs. For example, extend your thumb out away from your hand and then move it across your palm and back to the starting position.
- Use props. For more variety, buy some props or use ordinary objects to exercise with. Squeeze a stress ball or wring a damp washcloth.
- Eat more protein. Many experts believe that seniors need to eat more protein. Smart choices include eggs, tofu, fish, and dairy products. You may also want to sprinkle protein powder into your coffee or other dishes.
- See your doctor. Talk with your doctor about how your hands could be affecting your overall health. Your physician can make recommendations appropriate for your individual needs, including referring you to a physical or occupational therapist if necessary.
Your hands need exercise just like the rest of your body if you want to stay fit. Whatever your age, start today to eat a balanced diet and do exercises that will strengthen your grip.