Get a Grip: A Firm Way to Slow Aging
Weak muscles predict higher risk of physical disease, mental disability and early death
Imagine a pill that would give you a firm grip on the aging process, literally slow biological aging down, cause you to feel better physically, mentally and emotionally on a daily basis, and improve your chances of living longer and staying healthy and capable well into old age. While there is no such pill, the case for maintaining physical strength to slow the biological hands of time has become incredibly strong.
And new research reveals that biological age — how old you really are deep down inside compared to the number of candles on your birthday cake — can be measured using grip strength as a proxy.
“We’ve known that muscular strength is a predictor of longevity, and that weakness is a powerful indicator of disease and mortality,” said Mark Peterson, PhD, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Michigan. “For the first time, we have found strong evidence of a biological link between muscle weakness and actual acceleration in biological age.”
Peterson and his colleagues compared grip strength in 1,274 middle-aged people to DNA-based biomarkers of aging. Across 10 years of measurements, people with weak grips were found, on average, to age faster. Other research has shown that accelerated biological aging, measured by the same biomarkers, increases risk for everything from diabetes and heart attacks to disability, dementia and early death.
“Grip strength is not just a proxy for overall strength, but also a good indicator of overall robustness and health,” Peterson tells me. “The stronger a person is relative to his or her body mass, the healthier and higher functioning that person is.”
The findings are detailed in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle.
This isn’t a case for squeezing a rubber ball to develop a crushing handshake. It argues for taking up yoga, weightlifting, biking, indoor rock climbing, kayaking or any activity that builds whole-body muscle. No equipment? No money? No problem. Push-ups, planks, body-weight squats or a host of other simple exercises you can do at home will do the trick. Even just…