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  • Writer's pictureAaron Dobie

Healthy Aging: The Benefits of Grip Strength

The Impact of Handgrip Strength on Hip Fracture and Falls in Middle-aged and Older Adults

As we age, maintaining physical strength becomes increasingly crucial for overall health and well-being. A recent longitudinal study titled "Association of Handgrip Strength with Hip Fracture and Falls in Community-dwelling Middle-aged and Older Adults" sheds light on the significant role handgrip strength plays in preventing hip fractures and falls among middle-aged and older adults.


Understanding Handgrip Strength

Handgrip strength is a measure of upper body strength, specifically the strength of the muscles in the hands and forearms. It is often used as an indicator of overall muscle strength and functional ability. As we age, there is a natural decline in muscle mass and strength, making activities of daily living more challenging and increasing the risk of falls and fractures.

The Study Design

The longitudinal study followed a group of community-dwelling middle-aged and older adults over a period of four years. Researchers measured handgrip strength using a hand dynamometer at the beginning of the study and then tracked participants for incidents of hip fracture and falls during the follow-up period.

Key Findings

The study found a clear association between handgrip strength and the risk of hip fracture and falls:

  1. Hip Fracture Risk: Participants with lower handgrip strength at the start of the study were more likely to experience hip fractures during the four-year follow-up period. This highlights the importance of maintaining good muscle strength to reduce the risk of fractures, particularly in weight-bearing joints like the hips.

  2. Fall Prevention: Lower handgrip strength was also linked to an increased risk of falls. Stronger muscles, especially in the upper body, contribute to better balance and stability, reducing the likelihood of falls that can lead to injuries.

Implications for Health and Fitness

These findings emphasize the importance of regular exercise, including strength training, for middle-aged and older adults. By incorporating exercises that target handgrip strength and overall muscle strength, individuals can improve their physical resilience and reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

Practical Recommendations

Based on the study's findings, here are some practical recommendations for maintaining handgrip strength and overall muscle health:

  • Strength Training: Engage in regular strength training exercises that target all major muscle groups, including the hands and forearms.

  • Use Hand Dynamometers: Periodically measure handgrip strength using a hand dynamometer to track changes and progress over time.

  • Balance and Coordination Exercises: Incorporate activities that improve balance, coordination, and flexibility, such as yoga, tai chi, or specific balance exercises.

  • Nutrition: Ensure a balanced diet with adequate protein intake to support muscle maintenance and repair.

  • Regular Physical Activity: Stay physically active throughout the week, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity along with muscle-strengthening activities.

Conclusion

The association between handgrip strength, hip fracture risk, and falls underscores the importance of proactive measures to maintain muscle strength and functional ability as we age. By prioritizing regular exercise, proper nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of debilitating fractures and falls, leading to a better quality of life in their later years.


By: Aaron Dobie, Registered Physiotherapist


Book a telephysio / online physio / virtual physio / video physiotherapy appointment with a registered physiotherapist in British Columbia. InReach Online Physio services communities in northern and rural BC, such as Masset, Queen Charlotte, Fraser Lake, Fort Nelson, Fort St James, Dease Lake, Fort St John, Dawson Creek, the Gulf Islands, and more! InReach works closely with the First Nations Health Authority, Island Health Authority and Northern Health Authority.

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