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Why grip strength?


A study in the UK found that grip strength is an excellent proxy for overall strength, and is strongly and inversely associated with incidence of dementia. People in the lowest quartile of grip strength in this study have a 72 percent higher incidence of dementia compared with those in the top quartile. There does not appear to be an upper limit or 'plateau' to this relationship: the greater your grip strength, the lower the risk of dementia. Exercise is, full stop and hands down, the best tool we have in the neurodegeneration prevention tool kit.


An important measure of strength beyond weight lifting is how much heavy stuff you can carry. Carrying is our superpower as a species. It's the one reason why we have thumbs, as well as long legs and arms. No other animal is capable of carrying large objects from one place to another with any efficiency. Note the ones that can like horses and livestock, do so only because we bred and trained and harnessed them. So we need to improve our ability to carry things. This can be done with heavy grocery bags, dumbbells, kettlebells or sandbags.


How hard can you grip with your hands? This involves everything from your hands to your lats (the large muscles on your back). Almost all actions begin with the grip. We also need to be able to lift the weight up and put it back down, slowly and with control. Pulling motions, at all angles from overhead to in front of you, also requires grip strength.


If you can grip strongly you can open a jar with ease. If you can pull, you can carry groceries and lift heavy objects. Many studies suggest that grip strength - literally, how hard you can squeeze something with one hand - predicts how long you are likely to live, while low grip strength in the elderly is considered to be a symptom of age-related muscle atrophy. It is also a broader indicator of general robustness AND the ability to protect yourself if you slip or lose balance. If you have the strength to grab a railing, or branch, and hold on, you might avoid a fall.


Grip strength is important at all ages. Every interaction that we have begins with our hands (or feet). Our grip is our primary point of contact in almost any physical task, from swinging a golf club to chopping wood: it is our interface with the world. If our grip is weak, then everything else is compromised.


Training grip strength is not complicated. The classic farmer's carry -walk for a minute or two with a dumbbell, kettlebell (or with any kind of weight) in each hand with arms at your sides. Keep your shoulder blades down and back, not pulled up or hunched forward. To take it up a notch - hold the weight up vertically, keeping your wrist perfectly straight and elbow at 90 degrees.


You could also dead-hang from a pull-up bar for as long as you can every once in a while.


Grip strength! Who knew?


Source: Outlive by Dr. Peter Attia







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