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.