Your Grip Strength And the Length Of Your Life
The subject at hand today (my, I rarely start off an article with a joke that good) is how long you live and how strong you are.
And let me tell you, it’s one thing to live long… it’s another thing altogether to live long and enjoy your life up until the very last moments because you have the freedom to move and aren’t confined to a bed or a wheelchair.
Yes, people live a lot longer now than they did 150 years ago, but it could be argued that many people who live past the average age of death here in the U.S. (which is around 79 years old) aren’t actually living.
Many of them are being kept alive. And to me, that’s a heart-breaking proposition, living long but not being altogether “alive.”
Which is why I wanted to talk to you about why you should endeavor to be a little bit stronger and why you should also work your heart out more too.
I know that these prescriptions may come with some foreboding (who wants to train…), but as I mentioned in my article about Zone 2 cardiovascular training, and as I’ll clarify here, this doesn’t mean you need to devote your life to fitness.
Instead, you just need fitness to be a consistent part of your life so you eek out a few extra years (or decades).
In truth, fitness and diet are the leading factors for experiencing health as it ought to be.
Now, let me show you what the studies on grip strength are really all about.
How a Strong Grip Correlates With a Long Life
People don’t think about how their hands can predict the length of their life… unless you consider palm reading an exact science.
But, there is a litany of studies out there that are showing researchers that how hard you can squeeze, and how long you can maintain that squeeze, correlates with a longer life when you control for other factors like race, age, diet, income, etc.
In 2018 The BMJ took a comprehensive view of the strength of grip and how it correlated to future incidences of disease (like heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and more).
Looking at more than 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 correlated and adjusting for factors like income, sedentary time, and diet they discovered that when men had a grip-strength measurement of less than 57 pounds, and for women less than 35 pounds, grip strength was more likely to factor into the subject’s incidence of a risk of death as well as developing certain illnesses.
Each 5-kg (11-lb) increment of grip strength below these thresholds was tied to a 20 percent increase for women and a 16 percent increase for men in the risk of death from all causes…For death from heart disease, the risk increased 19 percent for women and 22 percent for men. For death from respiratory disease, the increase was 31 percent for women and 24 percent for men, and for deaths from all cancers, the increase was 17 percent for women and 10 percent for men.
A previous study conducted by the Lancet discovered something similar. Looking at 140,000 people who were between the ages of 35 and 70, they saw a correlation between a weaker grip and a higher chance of a participant having a stroke or a heart attack.
Is there something magical linking the tips of your fingers and your tombstone?
No. More than likely what is going on here is grip is a biomarker that reflects how well taken care of the rest of your body is. A common test amongst practitioners who focus on wellness is to see how long a person can hang from a pull-up bar; this exercise is called a dead hang, which is ironic as it’s an indicator of possibly living longer.
Dr. Peter Attia, who was once an oncologist and now works as an MD who helps his patients extend their life span says he likes for his patients who are around the age of 40 to be able to perform from a pull-up bar 2:00 minutes for men and 1:30 for women.
Being able to support your body mass for this amount of time says a lot about how strong a person’s grip is and it says quite a bit more about their overall condition.
Strength is one fitness factor that helps contribute to a longer life…but there are actually a few more.
Other Fitness Factors That Indicate You May Live a Longer Life
Look, the ability to perform a dead hang is one thing.
But, that kind of strength doesn’t necessarily point toward a healthy cardiovascular system.
And that’s why I’ll refer back to the article I wrote on zone 2 cardio training.
The fact of the matter is a low commitment to just a few hours of cardiovascular exercise a week could reduce all-cause mortality by as much as 50%.
Check out these studies and what they say about “cardio” and living longer.
Back in 2015 Australian scientists analyzed a large cohort of 200,000 people whose ages ranged from 45 to 75.
In their study they were able to flesh out the following: as little as 2.5 hours per week of moderate to hard cardio contributed to a 47% reduction in overall mortality. And if you ramped up the activity to 5 hours per week it led to a 54% reduction in mortality.
Lastly, they did qualify that at least some portion of the exercise had to be vigorous… and if all of it was vigorous then there was another 9% reduction in the risk of mortality.
That’s pretty significant.
And, this study is supported by additional studies like it.
Another even larger study conducted here in the U.S.and Europe followed 650,000 people and discovered that 2.5 hours of exercise weekly at moderate intensity was able to reduce all-cause mortality by a healthy 31% for people. That same result was attained with just 75 minutes weekly of intense exercise.
As the Australian study noted, when that total amount of exercise was increased to 5 hours at moderate intensity (or 2.5 hours at vigorous levels) the risk of death fell by 37%.
That tells us that there’s not a significant amount of time you’d be required to commit weekly to get the results you want to see (which is living longer).
Of course, all of this research comes with this PSA. When you work out, not only is there a good chance you will live longer, there will be a marked improvement in the quality of your life, too.
At the end of the day that’s the kind of thing that matters. I want all of my readers to live longer and I want them to experience the highest quality of life they possibly can. These fitness facts should put you on that path.
If you want me to write about exercises you can do to help achieve a better dead hang or better cardiovascular health, please respond to this email and let me know!