My mother was a professional dancer. She could leap across a floor, hold a plié as long as the choreographer wanted and climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty. But open a single jar of pickles? That she would pass to my dad. Every. Single. Time. And as she’s gotten older, her grip strength has gotten even weaker.
She’s not alone, and that’s not a good thing.
Many of us tend to overlook grip strength as a fundamental necessity as we age. Not only is grip strength critical for our daily lives—enabling us to perform essential tasks independently and maintain overall well-being as we get older—research has shown that it is a key marker of longevity.
Here are four reasons why maintaining grip strength is essential to healthy aging.
Open Those Pickle Jars: Grip strength is crucial for maintaining independence and performing everyday tasks. From opening jars and bottles to carrying groceries or lifting heavy objects, strong hands and wrists are essential. By maintaining grip strength, older adults can confidently handle common challenges and reduce their reliance on others for assistance. This independence enhances self-esteem and preserves a sense of autonomy, leading to a higher quality of life during the aging process.
Keep Your Hand and Wrist Bones Strong. While we often think of hip fractures as the key risk from falling as we age, wrist fractures are not only common, they are often the first sign of osteoporosis. Strength training—including grip exercises—can stimulate bone remodeling, and increase bone density and strength. By strengthening the muscles and bones in the hands and wrists, we improve their resilience and reduce the risk of fractures and other injuries associated with falls.
Keep Your Mind Sharp: Surprisingly, research suggests a link between grip strength and cognitive function in older adults. Studies have found that individuals with stronger grips tend to have better cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. The hand muscles and nerves are intricately connected to the brain, and regular exercise promotes better blood flow and oxygenation, supporting overall brain health. By maintaining grip strength, we can potentially delay cognitive decline, enhance brain function, and promote healthy aging.
- Lengthen Your Lifespan: Finally, and perhaps most surprising, grip strength has been identified as a reliable indicator of overall health and longevity. Research shows that weaker grip strength is associated with an increased risk of disability, chronic diseases, and mortality while maintaining or improving grip strength has been linked to a longer and healthier life. In fact, one large study showed that “grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than blood pressure.”
But how do you work on your grip strength? You grab a pair of Jetti Poles, intentionally designed to help strengthen, among other things, your grip. Jetti Poles have a sturdy, but soft, foam grip that enables you to build your grip strength as you walk. Not only will you be strengthening your grip, you’ll be building stronger muscles, working your cardiovascular system, and burning more calories as you Jetti Walk.
Next time you see someone struggling with a pickle jar, you’ll be able to offer a hand.