Hard to open a can? Decreased hand grip can mean something much more serious.

I’m in the kitchen making a sandwich. I love pickles and must open a new jar. I twist and twist and twist again. I reach for a towel to help me get the lid off. I twist some more, argh. Then POP, the lid opens and out flies pickle juice all over me, the counter, and the floor. My shirt is white.

What do your hands feel like when you open a jar?

Think back to the last time you opened a jar?  Did it seem harder?  Lid on way too tight? If you have poor grip strength you should not take that lightly. Do you automatically reach for that special tool to open your cans?

How does it feel when you open a jar?

 I noticed that my grip strength was a little weaker.  Opening jars seemed harder. I use to open them up just fine, or maybe used a towel to help. Now, I find myself reaching for that tool I bought my mother-in-law years ago. I was blaming those darn plastic bottles that are now so cheap that not even the strongest man in the world could open it. Maybe it’s not the bottles and maybe it’s me.

We rely on our hands

Think how much you rely on a strong grip every day.  In the old days, or pre-pandemic times, we shook hands with others as a routine greeting. Don’t forget those people who always tried to crush your hand. That’s one advantage of the pandemic, no hand shakes.  We open cans, grip tennis rackets or golf clubs, walk the dog, use garden tools, etc. Our hands do, no pun intended, the heavy lifting in our world.

“The ability to stay active and independent often begins with our hands,” says Maria Cole, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Outpatient Center. “Weak grip strength can limit your enjoyment of many life pleasures, so you need to ensure your hand and grip strength always are up to the task.”

How fast do you walk?

There have been many articles written about grip strength and its ability to be a predictor of things more serious.  One study reported a correlation between walking speed and grip strength.  Think about how fast you walk.  Are you a fast walker or a slow walker?  If you are a slow walker, how is your grip strength?  Hmm, you might want to take note. It all makes sense, if you walk slower, you probably have weaker muscles, and your hands are one of them. I like to take all of these data points into consideration, so I can make “course corrections.”

Grip strength: it’s relationship to mortality and disability

The correlation between grip strength and disability

Another study reports grip strength as a predictor of future mortality and disability, not to mention longer hospital stays.  It was also a predictor of physical functioning after a hip fracture and the length of rehabilitation. And yet another study associated the severity of Parkinson’s disease with grip strength.

Don’t get depressed

In the words of Maya Angelou, “nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success, and then just get a little more.”

I’m a firm believer in being proactive and not just accepting what someone tells us is inevitable. Sometimes we start slow and small and build up. 

My tips for improving your grip strength (and maybe more)

  1. CONTACT ME HERE and get started to make a change.

2. Walk!  Set 10,000 steps as your goal and start walking. If you are already walking that distance, time yourself and determine how long does it take to walk ¼, ½ or 10,000 steps?  If you aren’t start slow and build. Write it down and track it each month. Can you walk a little faster or longer each time? You don’t have to do the entire 10,000 steps at one time, break it up throughout the day. Get a fitness tracking device. My motto is – what we don’t measure, we won’t do. Click HERE for a fitness tracker that is $25 and for a bit more you can get a FitBit or Garmin.  See how much you can do and keep adding a little more. Maybe sign up for a 5K walk.  Fresh air and a walk, it doesn’t get much better.

2. Work those hands!  I like to use Therapy Putty. Click HERE if you want the link to order it, or click below for the link (both ways work).

https://amzn.to/3ARUd6e

Therapy Putty

Once you have the putty, start with the very soft version (yellow) and then build up to putty that is firmer.

Exercise 1. Place the Therapy Putty into the palm of your hand and press fingers through the putty until the fingertips reaches the palm, resulting in a fully clenched fist. Release fingers and roll putty in hands to reshape, and repeat exercise. This is a fun one to do while you are watch TV or talking on the phone.

If you want a quick peak of what the putty looks like – check out my video on YouTube https://youtu.be/PRj6tJCMI0Q I will be adding more hand exercises.

You can also find me doing more hand exercises on my Instagram channel at  https://www.instagram.com/sandifeaster/

The bottom line

You need to work your muscles and move your body to prevent sarcopenia and weakness. What’s sarcopenia? You can read more on my blog post about sarcopenia and some quick strengthening hacks you can do at home.

 https://turning60andbeyond.com/2020/02/1-strength-training-hack-you-can-easily-do/

Try my fitness classes, I’d love to have you join us. Hop over to my classes page HERE and take a look. If your hand strength is not what you want it to be, start today to avoid disability and frailty that poor grip strength might be telling you.

References

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-aging/give-grip-strength-a-hand

Bohannon, R. Muscle strength: clinical and prognostic value of hand-grip dynamometry. Clinical Nutrition, Vol 18:5. Sept 2015. P. 466-470.

Cooking tips for older adults managing arthritis hand pain

Sandi Feaster

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