What Does Grip Strength Have To Do With Aging?

How much force you can create with your grip just may indicate how well you are aging!

Last week we shared a video on our Instagram story that talked about grip strength and it’s many correlations with overall health (Do you follow us on instagram yet? Bewellchirofrankfort).  In that video, I promised we would put out an article that covered the paper more in depth.

The Study

The study we will talk about is titled “Grip Strength: An INDISPENSABLE Biomarker For Older Adults” (emphasis mine), authored by Richard Bohannon and published in “Clinical Interventions in Aging” in 2019.  You can find the full text at this link.

The author of the paper reviewed past studies that used dynamometry as a measure of how much force participants could generate with their grip, and how that correlated with other seemingly unrelated health outcomes.

It’s important to remember that this study investigate correlations and NOT causation.  When looking at a paper like this, we can say that grip strength is CORRELATED with ‘X’ rather than saying ‘X’ is caused by too little/too much grip strength.

What Did The Paper Find?

In short, the author concluded that grip strength can and should be utilized as a regular test in older populations during examinations due to it’s many correlations with overall health status.  Having a higher level of grip strength is correlated with having improved upper limb function, bone mineral density, nutrition status, cognition, and metabolic disorders.  Furthermore, grip strength shows a predictive relationship with future all cause and disease specific mortality.

Basically, having higher levels of grip strength indicates a healthier overall person.  The one primary caveat to this paper is that a complete understanding of overall health and strength would require a test of lower limb strength accompanied by grip strength.

Should We Train Grip Strength?

Many individuals hear about papers like this and go out and by a grip trainer.  This next part is important, pay attention.  Grip strength is a PROXY measure of overall strength.  In other words, a stronger person will have better grip strength, and a stronger person is likely more active, and therefore, healthier overall.  This study should not be an encouragement to sit on your couch and squeeze a rubber ball until you can crack walnuts in your hands.  Rather, this  study should be an encouragement to improve your OVERALL strength.

Ask yourself a few questions:

-Can you hang from a pull up bar for a minute?

-Can you carry a suitcase (without wheels) through an airport without having to stop multiple times?

-How many bags of groceries can you carry?

-Can you carry your water softener salt to your basement without difficulty?

These are all examples of everyday strength that we take for granted.  These tasks will become more difficult as you age, which is why maintaining a high degree of strength as you get older is so important to maintaining your independence and health in your elder years.  Thankfully, strength training isn’t as difficult as you think it is.

Where to Begin With Strength Training.

Have you ever seen those “no pain, no gain” folks on instagram?  Yah, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.  The reality is that you can make significant strength gains simply working out between 1-3 times per week.  In fact, we wrote an article a few months back about our transition from constantly working out for performance into working out a few times a week simply to be healthier.  The key is to focus on the outcomes of consistency over long periods of time coupled with excellent recovery.  Since Dr. Anna and myself have reduced the frequency and intensity of our workouts (and improved recovery) our results have gone through the roof.  There’s no major secret to what we do, and we freely share it.  If you are beginning a journey into strength training simply look up starting strength, Strong lifts, and/or (our favorite) Gymnastic Bodies.