Think about all the times you use your hands throughout the day. From pouring your morning coffee to opening the front door to go get the mail, you have to do a lot of pinching, twisting, and supporting. These tasks probably seem pretty simple now. In fact, you most likely do most of them without even thinking. But, if you neglect your grip strength, you may find that these tasks will become more difficult sooner than you’d like. If you live alone and want to maintain your independence, it’s especially important for you to take your grip strength seriously.
How’s your grip?
You can determine grip strength by how easily you perform daily tasks, like opening a jar, turning a doorknob, opening and closing self-sealing plastic bags, using a screwdriver, or lifting a pot from the stove. Another way is with a hand dynamometer. Squeeze it with your dominant hand as hard as you can for 10 to 15 seconds and note the highest number reached. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat three times. The highest number you hit is your score. A normal range for men ages 60 to 64 is 30 to 48 kilograms (kg). For those ages 65 to 69, it is 22 to 44 kg, and for men ages 70 and older, it is 21 to 35 kg. Some home models also are available online. Your doctor or physical therapist also can perform the test.
Exercise your hands
The following exercises work on strengthening your fingers and thumb, improving hand strength, and increasing wrist flexibility and range of motion. They can be performed in just a few minutes. Do them two to three times a week with at least a day or two of rest in between.
Flex and Extend
10 reps x 3 to 5 sets
Make a fist and squeeze as hard as you can, holding for two or three seconds. Open your hand and extend your fingers as long and as wide as possible, holding for five to 10 seconds.
10 reps x 3 sets
Grab a light dumbbell (about two or three pounds) in one hand. Sit up straight in a chair, and position your wrist off the edge of your knee, palm up, while holding the dumbbell. Flex your wrist up, using only the wrist and not any other part of your arm. Pause, and return to starting position.
Reverse Wrist Curls
10 reps x 3 sets
For reverse wrist curls, face your palm down. Flex the wrist upward again for three sets of 10 reps. Repeat with your other arm, using only the wrist and not any other part of your arm. Pause, and return to starting position.