Get a Grip…on your health!

What is “grip strength” and why should you care?

HandshakeRemember when you were told that the strength of your handshake really mattered for setting up good first impressions? Well, I am here to tell you that the strength of your handgrip matters for setting up good first impressions about your health!

In my world the word “grip strength” has a different mean. It refers to the maximum strength derived when you contract the muscles in your hands. It is a popular test that is used to understand your functional as well as your nutritional status. A review published in 2011 found that patients who scored poorly on grip strength had more complications after surgery, longer hospital stays and higher rates of hospitalizations compared to those who had adequate grip strength1. Additionally, grip strength is useful to help us identify persons at risk for mobility limitation2.

Your grip strength test tells us a lot about whether or not you are getting good nutrition or have good mobility. But why should this matter to you?

As we age, one of the most important things we want to preserve is our ability to perform “activities of daily living (ADL).” ADL is a fancy way of referring to the basic things we need to do in order to live such as eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and so forth1. For us to be able to the ADL’s require that we have good strength and dexterity especially with our hands.  Having good grip strength allows you to do the simple tasks in life such as opening a jar of spaghetti sauce or turning the doorknob.

Thankfully, there is a simple exercise you can do that will help to improve your handgrip strength. This exercise is featured as part of the Go4Life program from the National Institute on Aging3. All you’ll need is a tennis ball or small rubber or foam ball:


Tennis Ball











Step by Step Instructions3
  1. Hold a tennis ball or other small rubber or foam ball in one hand.
  2. Slowly squeeze the ball as hard as you can and hold it for 3-5 seconds.
  3. Relax the squeeze slowly.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times with other hand.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times more with each hand.


Here is video of the exercise as featured by the National Institute on Aging:

That was easy wasn’t it? It sort of reminds me of squeezing a foam stress ball to relieve tension whenever I feel tense.  This same simple exercise can be done while watching TV, waiting for an appointment or sitting in church.  There’s never a better time to improve your hands! Next week I will be featuring exercises for equally important body parts. Check back for more and happy reading!

Disclaimer: It is best to consult your physician before starting a new exercise routine.





Special Thanks to Trinh Le for her assistance with this post.


Eating to Get the Most Out of Exercise

Eating to Get the Most Out of Exercise

The impact of exercise on aging has been a focus of research in recent years. According to one study, aerobic physical activity has the ability “to improve sleep quality, mood and quality of life in older adults with chronic insomnia” (Reid et al., 2010). This is just one of many findings that support the positive influence of physical activity on health – at all ages.

It is extremely beneficial to stay physically active as we age, and what we eat to fuel our bodies is just as important as the exercise itself.  One JAMA study found an association between decline in physical function and low levels of dietary vitamin E in older adults. Of upmost importance is ensuring that we consume enough calories to support our activity level. Ideally, 30 grams of protein should be consumed at every meal of the day because sufficient amounts of protein are necessary to build muscle and strength.


Not only does physical activity improve functioning and prevent disability, it also increases and preserves skeletal muscle mass. Specifically, progressive resistance training (PRT) has been shown in both animals and humans to reverse losses of both muscle (sarcopenia) and bone mass (osteopenia). Regular exercise has the ability to both alter body composition and partially offset adverse body composition changes associated with aging.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend that older adults:

1. Do moderately intense aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week


Do vigorously intense aerobic exercise for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week

2. Do 8-10 strength-training exercising, 10-15 repetitions of each twice times per week

3. Perform balance exercises

  1. Have a physical activity plan

Here’s a great handout about exercising: Exercise and Physical Activity-Getting Fit for Life

Guest Blogger:  Brenna Keane


Referenced: “Findings suggest link between vitamin E and subsequent decline in physical function for older adults,” response article to JAMA. 2008; 299[3]:308-315. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Reid et al. Sleep Medicine. 2010; 11: 934-940. Nutrition for the Older Adult. Bernstein and Luggen.



Live Strong: Bone Health for Adults

Live Strong:  Bone Health for Adults

What is Osteoporosis?

Although many of us have heard of osteoporosis before, we may wonder what it really is. Osteoporosis is simply a disease of the bones, and happens when bones lose the minerals that make them strong. When bones lose their minerals, they become like fragile honeycombs, full of tiny holes and easy to break. Many mature adults are impacted by osteoporosis every day. Bones can become more fragile as we enter the mature years. Senior adults are often more susceptible to falls and events that may challenge bones. Staying strong by caring for bone health through exercise and nutrition can help mature adults live longer, healthier lives and avoid weak bones.

Filling Up: Some Good-for-Bones Foods

The Mayo Clinic, one of the foremost medical centers in the USA, relates that “It’s never too late… to do something about osteoporosis.” In fact, studies show that adding calcium and Vitamin D to your diet as a mature adult can slow down bone loss and how fast fractures occur. Other studies indicate that eating fruits and vegetables may also help bone density. Adding foods like yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs can help you get the calcium and Vitamin D that helps bones stay strong. Some fish, such as tuna, sardines, or salmon can also give your bones an additional Vitamin D boost!

Get Moving!

Exercise is also an important component of bone health. Studies show that physical activity can lower your risk of falling. And physical activity can help keep your bones healthy. Click Osteoporosis Handout for just a few ideas for ways you can stay active for better bones, and a better you.

Guest Blogger:  Mary Catherine Shafer

References and photos:

“Eating fish may thwart “silent” brain damage”

“Exercise is Key for Health in Older Adults”

International Osteoporosis Foundation,

Carter ND, Kannus P, Khan KM (2001) Exercise in the prevention of falls in older people: a systematic literature review examining the rationale and the evidence. Sports Med 31:427

“Vegetables, Not Fruit, Help Fight Memory Problems In Old Age”

Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, et al. (1999) Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 69:727.

Chapuy MC, Arlot ME, Duboeuf F, et al. (1992) Vitamin D3 and calcium to prevent hip fractures in the elderly women. N Engl J Med 327:1637.

“Exercise for Older Adults, A Crozer-Keystone PSA”


Wet Your Whistle!

You can lead a horse to water…

If you do not feel thirsty enough to drink 8 glasses of water a day, you are not alone. Research shows that the sense of thirst for older adults is less strong, even after exercising on a hot day.2

Drink early and often

Try drinking the 8 cups of water on a schedule:

• Start and end your day with a glass of water.

• Drink water with each meal, even at restaurants.

• Keep a reusable water bottle nearby during the day so you can drink between meals.

• Flavor your water with a slice of lemon or lime.

  • Finally, drink up before, during and after exercise!3

How does your body lose water?

• Going to the bathroom

• Sweat: increases with heat, exercise, and fever

• Breathing3

How does your body get the water back?

Drinking about 8 glasses of water a day and eating foods with water in them replaces what you lose.

Take Control

By drinking plenty of water, you can prevent symptoms of dehydration such as dark or reduced urine output, dry mouth, sleepiness, confusion, headaches and dizzy spells.3 Make staying hydrated part of your daily routine!

Hydration Handout: Hydration Handout

Guest Blogger:  Liesel Daughtery

References and photos


2. Kenney, WL, and P Chiu. Influence of age on thirst and fluid intake. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2001; 3309: 1524-1533.

3. “Hydration: Why it’s so important.” American Academy of Family Physicians: January 2010. Accessed 21 September 2010 at < home/healthy/food/general-nutrition/1013.html>.