ATLANTA – If you’re wondering how well you are aging, you may want to think about your handshake.
Dr. Joe Nocera, Ph.D, an associate professor of medicine at Emory School of Medicine and research scientist at the Atlanta VA, studies how exercise may affect our brain as we age.
And, Nocera says our grip strength may reveal clues about our health.
“So grip strength is actually a really good proxy for overall muscle strength,” Nocera explains. “Muscle strength is critical. When we talk about overall health risk of cancers, and your ability to move throughout your environment.”
Nocera says there is growing research that shows a weak grip may be a warning sign of health problems, and even premature death, down the road.
He says, while it is normal to lose some muscle strength as we age, we can slow it down that decline with strength training.
“When it comes to grip strength, if there’s something that you’re worried about, you know, having difficulty opening jars, turning door handles, you can use muscle, use those muscles and exercises to strengthen them,” Nocera says.
Weight training can help, he says, as can squeezing exercises, using your hands.
“You can also use small dumbbells and do wrist flexions, wrist extension to target that specific muscle,” he says. ‘A good example is like a putty in your car while you’re driving to squeeze.”
Concentrate, he says, on strengthening not just your grip, but all of your muscles.
“Having a program, a strength training program, that targets the large muscles throughout your body is really important,” Nocera says. “You really want to focus on overall muscle strength.”