Grab a pickle jar and try this at-home longevity test

If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of your day using your hands.

But even though your hands may be constantly moving across keyboards or smart phone screens, they might be getting weaker with every passing day…

That’s because in today’s society everything’s automated. Sure, you use your hands all day but you’re not doing the strength building tasks that people did 20 to 30 years ago — like mixing food by hand rather than using an electric mixer, raking leaves rather than using a leaf blower or shoveling snow rather than relying on a snow blower.

As a result, Americans’ grip strength is weakening at a rapid pace. In fact, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Hand Therapy found that in the past generation, grip strength has decreased significantly…

The study looked at the grip strength of millennials (between the ages of 20 and 34 at the time of study) and compared it to grip strength measures taken in 1985. And, sure enough, millennials’ hands are nearly 20 percent weaker than people 30 or so years ago.

This may not seem all that alarming in and of itself. Unless you know that grip strength corresponds to your overall health — then, it gets a little scarier…

Studies have shown that grip strength is statistically connected to your:

Grip strength has even been revealed as a more reliable gauge of your biological age (how old your body seems based on certain biological and physical markers) than the number of candles on your last birthday cake.

Now, don’t get me wrong… there’s no guarantee that you’ll live to 100 just because you have the buffest hands on the block. But it’s clear that, for some reason or another, how well you can open a tightly sealed jar tells you something about your overall health.

And if you’re thinking that the threat of weakening grip strength doesn’t apply to you because you’re not a millennial, think again. Regardless of what generation you’re part of, you can’t escape the fact that grip strength tends to weaken as you get older. It happens to both men and women — especially after the age of 65.

So, what can you do to prevent yourself from joining the weakening masses?

Well, the answer’s simple…

You need to exercise your hands, just like you exercise the rest of your body.

You can invest in a set of those hand grippers you’ve seen at the gym or one of those squishy stress balls. You could also get more creative with your hand exercises by:

  • Playing with clay. Smash it, squeeze it, roll it, pinch it — It will all lead to better grip strength.
  • Wringing out a wet cloth. Moisten a cloth or towel and wring it out with your hand. You can even do some cleaning while you’re at it.
  • Making a fist. Squeeze your hand tightly into a fist, hold it for a few seconds and then release. Doing repetitions of this exercise whenever you have a few minutes to spare will increase your grip strength over time.
  • Doing some gardening. Pulling weeds is great way to strengthen your grip.
  • Practicing opening tight jars. Not only will this strengthen your grip, but it will prevent you from future frustration at not being able to open that jar of salsa you really want to snack on.
  • Trying rock climbing. If you start visiting your local climbing wall, your grip strength is sure to improve in no time.
  • Playing tug of war. Grab a rope or a TheraBand and encourage a friend or family member to strengthen their grip with you by playing one of your favorite childhood games.
  • Kneading some dough. Try making a healthy batch of homemade multigrain bread or a paleo pizza crust.

Editor’s Note: Who knew a strong grip had such an effect on your biological age? You may be just as surprised to learn that  insulin, your body’s master hormone, does as well. Every time your blood sugar spikes, your cells experience an increase in growth and a decrease in repair resulting in an accumulation of waste products that causes premature aging of your cells. Balancing your body’s master hormone can help you avoid age-related disease and live a longer, healthier life. To learn more about The Insulin Factor, and its far reach beyond diabetes, click here.

Sources:
  1. “Raising the American Weakling.” Nautilus. http://nautil.us. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  2. Fain. “Comparative study of millennials’ (age 20-34 years) grip and lateral pinch with the norms.” Journal of Hand Therapy. Oct.-Dec. 2016; (29)4: 483-488.
  3. “Give grip strength a hand.” Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  4. Carmeli, et al. “The Aging Hand.” The Journals of Gerontology, 2003; 58 (2): M146-M152.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.