The Significance of Grip Strength for Your Overall Health

The Significance of Grip Strength for Your Overall Health

Is grip strength more crucial than we realise?

Grip strength is not just a simple measure; it is a consistent biomarker of your current well-being and can predict your future health outcomes with surprising accuracy (1). Handgrip strength (HGS) is closely related to overall strength, function of upper and lower limbs, bone density, cognitive function, malnutrition, depression, sleep issues, diabetes, chronic diseases, and overall quality of life (2)(3).


Having low grip strength can lead to a range of negative health consequences, including chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and psychiatric problems (4). Low grip strength is defined as having less than 26 kilograms or 57 pounds of force for men and 16 kilograms or 35 pounds for women (4). Adults with lower grip strength often face difficulties performing physical tasks like lifting heavy objects, climbing stairs, walking for extended periods, and even getting up from a chair (5). Furthermore, lower HGS has been linked to higher inflammation, poor heart health, malnutrition, poorer sleep quality, and cognitive impairment (6)(7).


Though the exact mechanism is not yet fully understood, the prevailing hypothesis suggests that low grip strength in the general population indicates premature aging through DNA methylation (2)(8).


Biological aging involves negative changes in body composition and a loss of physical function. As individuals age, there is a significant decline in muscle mass and muscular strength, a condition known as sarcopenia (9). This loss of muscle can lead to decreased bone mineral density and an increased risk of falls, fractures, and hospitalisations (10)(11). Grip strength has been used by medical professionals to identify at-risk populations.


Testing your grip strength is a quick and straightforward way to assess your overall health and fitness, irrespective of your race, age, or gender (12)(13). A digital handgrip dynamometer or accelerometer can measure the rate of force development, sub maximal force steadiness, and fatiguability to provide a rapid indication of your general muscle strength (14)(15). By testing your grip strength, you can also predict your risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular diseases (16). Additionally, having a 10% difference between your dominant and non-dominant hand may indicate a grip strength issue (17).


If you find that your grip strength is low, there are several things you can do to improve your overall physical fitness and HGS scores. Firstly, implementing a strength training program can increase your muscle mass and grip strength (18). Secondly, improving your nutritional habits, including increasing protein intake, can significantly help enhance grip strength (19)(20). Lastly, improving your sleep quality can positively impact various aspects of your health, including finger strength (21).


To address low handgrip strength or muscle weakness, you can directly train your handgrip strength to improve your lifts, blood pressure, and reduce your risk of injury (22). Research indicates that higher grip strength is a good indicator of muscle mass and lower rates of sarcopenia (23). One study also found that training grip strength leads to lasting positive changes in blood pressure, especially for older adults and overweight or obese individuals (24). Furthermore, grip strength has been associated with a lower risk of injuries, such as wrist sprains (25).


Here are some exercises to improve grip strength: Kettlebell Farmer Carries, Dumbbell Rows, Hanging from a Pull-Up Bar, Deadlifts without straps, using thicker hand grips like Epic Fitness Dumbbell Grips, or classic spring-loaded hand grippers. These exercises can help you develop a strong grip while preventing frailty and reducing your mortality risk.

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