Upon rising with the sun barely peeking up over the horizon, I cautiously (because I don’t want to trip over my dog!) make my way to the bedroom door. I grip the doorknob, rotate it, and open the door. Making my way to the kitchen, I again twist open the dead bolt, turn the doorknob, and release the hound for her morning relief. I pick up the kettle and, holding it tight, fill it with water and carry it to the stove. Grabbing a can from the panty, and using one smooth but forceful motion, peel off the lid and spoon the contents into the dog’s bowl. After, preparing tea, I sit down at my computer caressing the warm mug in my hands and breath in the aroma that signals the start of my day.
Within the first few minutes of my day, I rely on the grip strength of my hands to perform just about every action. Although it is easy to take the strength of your hands for granted, your raw grip strength is actually a predictor of overall health, and even osteoporosis.
Why grip strength matters
Your grip strength not only measures the functional capacity of your hand, but has been shown to be related to cardiovascular function, mobility, amount of muscle mass and bone mineral density. Stronger grip strength reflects more muscle mass which is associated with increased activity and better health.
Studies have been popping up for years linking grip strength to osteoporosis. As recently as this past February, a study consisting of 120 postmenopausal women found that decreased grip strength was correlated with reduced bone mineral density of the spine and hip and was a strong risk factor for osteoporosis.
Hand grip strength may also be associated with cardiovascular function and disease. One researcher found that better hand grip strength was associated with having a healthier heart structure and function. Another found that the weaker your grip strength, the greater the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In fact, grip strength can be a stronger predictor of cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure!
Improved cognitive functioning, including memory, reaction time, and reasoning, has also been linked to a stronger hand grip.
Lastly, the stronger your grip the better mobility and balance reducing the risk of falling and breaking a bone.
How good is your grip strength?
Can you lift a pot off the stove, carry grocery bags in from the car, loosen the lid of a jar? If you struggle with these activities, that could be a sign that you need to takes steps to make activity and exercise a priority in your life. Remember, grip strength is a predictor of overall body health and well-being. It is important to understand that it is not the actual strength of your forearm and hand muscles that is significant, it is what your grip strength reflects about the strength and coordination of the muscles throughout your body.
Doing exercises to strengthen the muscles in your wrists and hands can certainly help, especially if you have osteoporosis in your forearm, but just improving grip strength isn’t the answer. You need to engage in exercises and activities to improve skeletal muscle strength and health. The more movement you do, whether it is structured exercise or functional work like house chores, gardening, carrying grocery bags, the more you strengthen your muscles head to toe, along with the bones that lie beneath them.
Physical strength and fitness is one of the strongest predictor of individual’s future health.
**Grip strength, though a predictor of strength in the general population, doesn’t carry the same predictors in those with pain or deformity in the hands secondary to arthritis or rheumatoid disease.
If you are local to Northern Virginia, give me a call and we can schedule a time to test your grip strength!