Grip Strength Is a Crucial Vital Sign Your Doc Has Never Taken

Most people are familiar with the “firm handshake” and automatically imagine the “business world.” A quick search will reveal articles that have titles such as “Seven Super-Revealing Things Your Handshake Says About You” ( Forbes) and “How a Handshake Can Tell You Everything You Need to Know About a Person” ( Inc.).

However, well-informed people have a clear idea of what your handshake will reveal: Your present health, the possibility of future ailments, and how long you’ll remain. Indeed, the strength of your grip could be the most telling medical test the doctor hasn’t ever conducted.

In a typical visit to your doctor, you’ll expect that they will take note of your weight, temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. These measurements are referred to as “vital signs” for a reason. They give a brief snapshot of your present health and offer hints on future health.


Basic Body-Weight Exercises You Can Do Right Now

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What Are Body-Weight Exercises?

They’re workouts that use your body’s weight to resist. They typically target various muscles and aid in building endurance and strength. There isn’t any equipment or weights. Therefore they can be done in almost any place. You can also customize these exercises according to your preferences. Thus, whether you’re an experienced or novice, you’ll reap tremendous advantages.

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It’s the most widely-known exercise using body weight. The triceps and chest muscles most often, since you’re pushing your body’s weight. While doing this, your deltoids -the muscles of your shoulder help support the movement of your arms, and your abdominal muscles work to keep your core strong. Make sure your hips don’t back-dip downwards or straighten up. Do precise, smooth movements.

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They’re ideal for making you more flexible and gaining strength in your lower body. Your lower body will become more flexible, and your hips will become more flexible. The muscles you work with are the ones that dominate your leg, including your quadriceps and hamstrings, gluteus maximus. Be mindful not to put too excessive weight on the balls of your feet. Do as low a squat as you can without feeling any pain or pressure on your knees. As you gain strength, then you’ll be able to reduce your incline.

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Planking — a form of exercise that requires you to hold your body in a parallel position to the ground is a highly versatile exercise with many advantages. If you’re looking to build your core, the plank is the perfect exercise. Core exercises can ease lower back discomfort. It also reduces the strain on your spine, which will improve posture. You’ll be more flexible and increase your ability to balance.

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Mountain Climbers

The name says all the exercise involves mimicking the movements you would perform while climbing the mountain. These are great exercises to warm up for a workout or a challenging activity to do by itself. You’ll work your legs, core, triceps, and shoulders. However, almost every muscle group gets some exercise as well as cardiovascular. Mountain climbers will also challenge the body in ways you usually don’t.

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Pelvic Tilt

For one of these exercises, lie on your back, lift your pelvis off the floor, and keep your knees bent and your feet straight. It improves your posture and strengthens the muscles of your buttocks and the core. Make sure you breathe deeply when you’re doing this. Do not raise your shoulders or lift your lower back to the floor.

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For this full-body workout to complete this full-body exercise, lower your body to the ground and perform a squat thrust, then explode into a high leap. The jump will engage all of your major muscles. In addition, you’ll be working your lungs and heart. Burpees are a great way to strengthen your muscles, which will help you help you fight back when your body is losing power as you get older.

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Single Leg Deadlift

Keep one leg on with a slight bend in your knee. Make sure to keep your core strong. Slowly bend forward at your hips while keeping your standing knee slightly bent. Although this exercise technically involves your body, you’ll feel the most in your hips and legs. It improves strength and endurance within the muscles beneath your waistline. It also builds the ancillary muscles that help improve your balance and provide the most significant resistance to your lower back.

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They focus on strengthening the muscles of your legs. They are also excellent for building up your fitness for various sports, especially basketball, soccer, or tennis since they all require lunging movements. Be sure your knee doesn’t extend further than your toes and is positioned in the middle of your foot.

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Abdominal Crunch

Lay flat on your back by keeping your knees bent and feet level. Place your arms on your chest. Lift your shoulders and the top of your head off the floor, working those core muscles. It will help strengthen your muscles and allow you to complete all kinds of sports and activities. Do not place your hands over your head when doing these exercises. This can not only prevent you from working the abdominal muscles, but it can also harm your neck.

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While you don’t require any equipment to complete this exercise, ensure that you’ve got access to the set or stairs. While standing in the middle of them, push with your sole foot and raise your body onto the step, then step back to where from which you started. Make sure your core muscles are tight as well as your spine straight. This is a great way to strengthen your gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

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To do this, lay flat on your stomach and raise your arms and legs simultaneously. This strengthens the muscles in your lower back. This can aid in easing back pain or even avoid it altogether. Hold the position for at least 5 seconds to stimulate your muscles.


Reviewed by Ross Brakeville on 2/25/2023

However, there’s a legitimate argument that grip strength should be included in the category. Testing grip strength is simple, quick, non-invasive, and fast. It can be analyzed throughout. All you need is a handgrip, a dynamometer, an instrument that could be less expensive than a doctor’s stethoscope, and a chair.

What is grip strength telling us? The force you can exert with your hands accurately indicates total body strength. Total-body strength is an essential factor in healthy aging.

“Many studies have looked at strength as a predictor of positive health and weakness as a predictor of negative health outcomes,” said Mark Peterson, Ph.D., associate professor of rehabilitation and physical medicine study at the University of Michigan, who’s been involved in various studies.

One of the health dangers that are associated with weak grip strength are:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Depression
  • Functional disability
  • Osteoporosis
  • Death from premature causes of any kind

The predictive value of grip strength has been studied across continents and cultures. Although most of these studies have focused on older people, there are other age groups that researchers have examined.

“We have several papers on the value of grip strength for predicting diabetes and cardiovascular disease in children and adolescents,” Peterson stated.

What are the reasons for strength in grips? What could the magnitude of force produced by these tiny muscles in the forearm and hand be linked to such a wide range of death-and-life implications?

Survival of the Strongest

The first thing you need to know about the test for grip strength is that it’s about more than just grip. It’s predominantly about power. This is what has drawn Peterson to this area of study.

“I’m a former strength coach, so I wanted to make a case for why strength was important across populations, not just athletes,” said the man. “I strongly believe in strength preservation and healthy living as a predictor for longevity.”

Take a look at a classic research study on Swedish Army recruits. In the wake of Sweden’s post-World war Conscription policy of the Second World War, almost all young men were subjected to an examination of their physical condition to determine whether they were suitable for military service. It was the test included a grip strength test.

This gave researchers an extensive database that included over a million people. They followed them over a period using public data.

What they discovered: men who had the weakest grip strength at the end of their teens were 20 percent more likely to die before the age of 50 than those who had good to excellent grip. Suicide rates were 20-30 percent higher for recruits with weaker grip strength.

There’s harsh Darwinian reasoning for the belief that a more robust person with a firmer grip will have a longer, healthier life. For our ancestors from the past, strong hands meant that you could do better in anything essential to survival, like hunting, fighting, constructing shelters, and raising children.


Sneak Exercise Into Your Day

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It aids in blood flow through your body, increasing the range of motion you can perform, and can help avoid an injury. You can practice it at any time, including at work during office hours. But keep it gentle. Do not push to the point of hurt.

1-Mile Rule

If you’re in town, consider all the places within 1 mile of your home. If you had filled up your vehicle and driven to find -and perhaps pay for parking, you might have walked to the location. In times of heavy traffic, walking might help you get there quicker.

Tense Your Muscles

Do you have time to work out? Not a problem. Doing this virtually anywhere and in an extremely short time is possible. For example, tighten the muscles in your abdomen for 3-10 seconds. Repeat the exercise four times. Your coworkers will not even be aware that you’re exercising. The activities can reduce blood pressure, too.

Get a Jogging Stroller

Don’t be confined to the home with your child. Let them go with you! A stroller can turn your jog into an enjoyable experience for all. Therefore, strap the kid in, bring some emergency items, and set out there.

Have Leash, Will Walk

Fido isn’t the only dog who needs a daily walk and exercise, but being aware that he will get you moving. Being a pet owner makes you more likely to stay physically active. The guilt of not using that club membership doesn’t matter to the smile he shows you when he wants to take a stroll. Take a leash and perhaps a Frisbee and put aside the money you pay for gym memberships to buy treats for your dog.

Walking Meetings

Are you looking for 30 minutes to chat with your coworker? Take it on the road and get two birds in one stone. You will not only get an exercise session, but you might also be more efficient at work.

Take the Stairs

In just one minute, a 150-pounder burns ten calories by walking up a flight of stairs, compared to 1.5 calories in the elevator. If you’re heading towards the 35th floor, there’s no need to walk all up (unless you want to). Go to the elevator on the 30th level and climb the five flights to the 35th floor. Take the stairs one step at one at a time. This burns more calories than doing them two at one time.

Park Farther Away

If you’re in the grocery store, office, or even the post office, be sure to park in the rear of the lot. It’s less likely that you’ll get involved in a collision with a vehicle, and you will be closer to your fitness all week.


A Canadian study revealed that sprints lasting three seconds, followed by a 2-minute break between them and followed by a 3-minute cooldown, offered similar benefits to a moderate, sustained exercise of 48 minutes. The intensity of the workout and cooling down does not just burn many calories but also increases the muscle’s sensitivity to insulin and improves its performance. It is possible to do this during your lunch break and still be able to have lunch. Make sure you get warm first. Also, consult your physician for advice if you need to know whether you’re fit enough to do intense training.


Use Public Transportation

One city found that an average commuter could add about 15 minutes of physical activity daily, mostly walking between trains and buses using public transport. This amounts to 105 minutes of the 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week. Additionally, you’ll save on gasoline.


Take the Long Way Home

It’s trash time — you’ll need to put your shoes and coat on, no matter what. So why not stroll through the neighborhood while there? If the weather is good and you have the time, try it whenever you walk.


Bike to Work

Community message boards or a bike commuters group will help you determine the most secure route. There are plenty of resources available. Some companies have a place to wash up after your trip.


Power Chores

The person you share a home with, there are a lot of opportunities to be engaged in your home and around the yard. You can scrub the tub more vigorously than you normally do. This can cause your heart rate to. Does your car require some attention? Do it yourself. You’ll save money and also get fit in the process.



Are you looking to send a text message to a colleague across the office? Do not email it; take it to the floor and walk over. It’s an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with your colleagues and takes you off your chair and onto the move for a while. You can do this at least a few times daily, and you’ll be amazed by how many steps you take.


Stay off the Couch

Don’t sit down with an ice cream cone to watch the TV. Place the remote in the middle of the room so that you need to move for a channel change. Exercise on a bike or run while watching, perform pushing-ups at commercial breaks, or tidy up the living area. You’ll burn off calories and can better remain clear of the refrigerator.

The people who have this advantage are more attractive to potential mates. They will also have more children, and the children will be healthier and more robust due to their genes and diet.

Now, we are in the 21st century, in which we have to force ourselves to exercise despite science showing us time and time repeatedly why physical activity is essential for longevity and health. The old rules remain in effect that strength helps to survive.

Grip Strength and the Aging Process

The earliest grip strength studies utilized it to indicate the nutritional condition in older females and males. Nutritional status, in turn, indicated their capacity to endure the effects of surgery or illness.

It’s logical that if an aging person doesn’t eat enough to keep their health and vitality in check and strength, they’ll lose it. A decline in power could increase the risk of infections, hospitalizations, and complications following surgery, leading to more hospitalizations, loss of independence, and, eventually, a greater risk of dying from any causes.

In that vein, Peterson’s research team from the University of Michigan found that weak grip strength is linked to a greater rate of aging on a cell level.

The study focused on DNA methylation, which Peterson says is “a reflection of someone’s exposure to life events.”

For instance, a person who smokes has altered patterns of methylation compared to those who don’t. The same applies to people who have been exposed to more pollution in the environment.

The acceleration of DNA methylation “means you’re essentially at higher risk for what is traditionally considered age-related chronic conditions,” Peterson stated. These include Alzheimer’s and Type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, and a greater risk of premature death.

As you might recall, they are also connected to a weak grip. We now recognize she is linked to higher DNA methylation and the speed of biological aging.

There’s one more part of the puzzle: What exactly is why the quality you grip is connected with so many health issues?

Grip Strength and Muscle Function

“Declining muscle function is the first step of the disabling process,” said Ryan McGrath, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition, health, and fitness sciences at North Dakota State University. “That’s the kind of thing you can gauge using a handgrip test. It can help you determine who is at risk of going through the next stage of the process, which is a decline of physical fitness.”

McGrath was involved in grip strength research during his postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Michigan, where he collaborated alongside Peterson. Much like Peterson McGrath, he has published several studies based on data collected by a handgrip dynamometer.

“It can be a nice tool for assessing muscle function and strength,” he said. Since the test is simple to administer that you sit in a chair with your arm by your side, with you bend your elbow 90 degrees, and press the device to the maximum extent, it is possible to do — research scientists can work with large numbers of people, and walk away with data that is statistically robust.

“There’s a lot of health outcomes it’s associated with, which is one of its greatest strengths and at the same time one of its key limitations,” McGrath declared.

The dynamometer was compared to an air gauge. Like a tire, a gauge will warn you of a decrease in air pressure, but it doesn’t reveal the cause of the leak; the dynamometer is unable to determine what caused your grip strength to be diminished.

“It’s hard to specify the prognostic value,” the expert declared. “You do not know what most appropriate next step to follow. As a stand-alone measurement, that’s an issue.”

This is why his current research focuses on more than simple tests of grip strength and maximum force to more precise measures of force growth (how quickly you can show your strength) as well as reproducibility (how much strength decreases between your first and the third or second squeeze) as well as an asymmetry (how much of a gap can be between right-hand strength and left-hand strength).

Any of these tests could detect a neuromuscular or neural problem.

In a study for 2020 such as this, McGrath and his team at NDSU discovered that older adults with Asymmetry and weakness during grip strength tests were more than 4-fold more likely to suffer from functional limitations. These limitations can affect their ability to complete everything from daily chores to hygiene and eating.

This brings us to the most critical issue. If you’ve gathered grip-strength information about a person, a client, or yourself, what can you make of it?

Waging War on Weakness

The process of defining weakness is straightforward. Based on dynamometer measurements, the most commonly accepted thresholds for weak grip strength include 26 kilograms in a male adult and 16 kgs for females. (It’s more appropriate to use kilograms rather than pounds, as we’ll discuss in a minute.)

It’s just too easy, Peterson said.

One thing to remember is that your age is a factor. Grip strength generally is at its peak for males in their 20s to late 20s and decreases dramatically in middle age and above. Women’s strength plateaus at around 20 and slowly fall until the 50s. At a minimum, you should look up the age-based guidelines in the dynamic dynamometer.


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Another caution: Peterson said grip strength tests are only somewhat relevant for people who regularly work out for strength. However, Peterson suggests that dedicated athletes constitute only a tiny portion of the population. It could be at a low of 10 percent.

The size of the person who is taking the test is also crucial.

“You absolutely must account for body mass in the context of understanding how grip strength, or any strength measure, is reflective of health and function,” Peterson declared.

To determine your strength-weight ratio (which Peterson calls “normalized grip strength”), simply divide the strength of your grip in kilograms by the weight of your body in kilograms. For males, a ratio of greater than 0.70 places you in the upper percentages. For women, it’s 0.50. (You will get the complete normalized grip strength percentages table here.)

What if the results suggest that the subject is weak in the eyes of others? “For me, that’s easy,” Peterson declared. “They need to do exercise.”

Common sense advises performing many exercises for the forearm to build grip strength. This is not the case, says Peterson. The strength of the forearm and hand muscles reflects what they can accomplish along with your other muscles working together.

A study in 2019 revealed that for people over 65, a variety of exercises can result in small but significant increases in grip strength for participants. Still, they don’t need to incorporate specific grip exercises. The programs included water aerobics, tai-chi, stretching, walking, and various muscle-strengthening activities.

Peterson’s advice to all is quite simple to build strength. It doesn’t matter what you do or how much strength you increase. A little bit more strength will mean less weakness and more vitality.


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