Grip Strength as a Measure of Health
Measuring your grip strength is an excellent test of not just strength but overall health and wellbeing.
A simple grip strength test can help monitor athletic performance, ageing, full-body strength, muscle mass, body fat and even nutritional status.
In newborns, the natural grip reflex soon subsides, but grip strength continues to increase for the next two to three decades. After which grip strength starts to decrease, how rapidly this occurs is a good indicator of overall health and fitness.
What is Normal?
There is no normal, but rather a range of what would be considered normal grip strengths for each age group. Keep in mind that these normal values reflect a general population who don’t necessarily have higher levels of health and fitness. As a result, these so-called normal ranges may appear quite low when compared to a group of healthy and fit people of the same ages.
Studies have shown that grip strength in men and women between 20 and 70 years range from 47 to 33, and 30 to 20 pounds, respectively. Yet healthy and fit 65-year older men and women can reach over 100 and 80 pounds, respectively.
What is more critical is individualisation, i.e. monitoring your changes in grip strength over some time.
Monitoring for grip strength changes requires a baseline measurement of grip strength, by a physiotherapist, for example, followed by repeat measurements at specific intervals. Repeat measurements are an excellent objective way of determining in any interventions to improve grip strength have been successful.
Grip strength is an indication of:
- Overall health and fitness in particular full-body strength and endurance
- Physical, biochemical and mental-emotional well being
- Overall mortality - those with significantly reduced grip strength live shorter lives.
Grip strength can be weakened by:
- A localised weakness of hand muscles which can occur due to injury as well as brain or spinal injuries, or chronic disuse
- Weak legs
- Excess body fat as well as increased waist to hip ratios.
- Poor nutrition
- Being overtrained or burned out
- Sickness or injury even hospitalised or bed-rested.
- Advancing age
- Reduced dexterity as an indication of impaired neurological function.
- Low activity levels and increased time spent sitting.
Way to improve grip strength:
- Strengthening your grip (typically with handgrip exercises) is not the only way to improve grip strength. While you will accomplish this to some extent, improving whole-body strength and endurance as well as overall health and fitness, regardless of age, will improve grip strength even without performing handgrip exercises.
- Eliminating junk food and consuming adequate healthy proteins and balanced fats
- Each healthy habit we maintain or create results in improvement of the grip or at least slows the reduction during ageing.
- If you’re building endurance or full-body strength, grip strength improvement indicates training success.
Grip strength is a practical, easy way to monitor your health and fitness and improvements. If you would like to have a grip test performed and be provided with a programme to help improve your grip strength if required, please contact the clinic for an appointment on 01-2834303.
In good health,
Amaral CA, et al. Handgrip strength: Reference values for adults and elderly people of Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. PLoS One. 2019; 14(1). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211452
Barrea L, et al. Association between Mediterranean diet and handgrip strength in older adult women. Clin Nutr. 2019;38(2). doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.03.012.
Dodds RM, et al. Grip strength across the Life Course: Normative Data from Twelve British Studies. PLoS One. 2014; 9(12). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113637
Martin JA, et al. Age and Grip Strength Predict Hand Dexterity in Adults. PLoS One. 2015; 10(2). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117598