“The older I get the tighter companies are putting the lids on jars”
As I was scrolling through social media one evening, I came upon this meme…
This difficulty could be blamed on businesses trying to secure their valuable product or on marketers designing eye-catching packaging that isn’t always user-friendly. But somehow, I suspect that it’s more a case of gradually losing our grip strength as we get older!
What’s really going on here?
Unfortunately, we can’t escape the sands of time. Muscle strength is directly related to the size (or cross-sectional area) of our muscles (1). Therefore, big muscles = strong and small muscles = weak (1). After the age of 45, we lose approximately 8% of our muscle mass every decade (1, 2). In summary, the older we get, the lower the maximum potential strength of our muscles (1).
However, this bad news doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up in despair and start stockpiling anti-aging creams!
Regular physical exercise and activity can help build up (or at least maintain) muscle mass and strength (1). Having a stronger grip not only allows us to open that delicious jar of peanut butter, but has been associated with:
improved quality of life (3)
higher all-around strength and function (3)
lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer (3)
lower risk of complications if hospitalized (3)
How can we improve our grip strength?
To directly strengthen the muscles that operate our fingers and support our wrists, we must strengthen our forearms by performing exercises such as:
carrying heavy groceries for an extra lap around the house
Wringing out Wet Towel
giving the dish rag an extra 5-10 squeezes when wringing out the towel!
holding the clothespin open an extra 1-2 seconds when hanging clothing up to dry…
***NOTE: STOP and contact your local physiotherapist and/or general physician if ANY of the above exercises create pain, numbness, tingling, or other symptoms.***
In order to receive all the other benefits that have been associated with higher grip strength, we all need to increase our overall physical activity levels (4)! According to ParticipACTION’s most recent Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults for 2021, 88% of Canadians spend 8 or MORE hours each day in sedentary activities (4).
What SHOULD we be doing for physical activity?
* NOTE: ParticipACTION Canada recently removed the requirement that this activity has to be done in at least 10 minute “chunks” (4)
DID YOU KNOW THAT…?
Only approximately 50% of Canadians are getting the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity (4)
Only 20% of Canadians are getting the recommended 2 days per week of muscle and bone strengthening (4)
Physical exercise is the closest thing we have to a magic pill. It improves our physical and emotional health as well as prevents disease (7). So why not take advantage and start now?
The key is to make it something you WANT to do! Make it attractive to YOU!
Don’t run if you hate running…there are LOTS of other ways to get your 150 minutes of aerobic activity! Talk to your physiotherapist and/or kinesiologist to brainstorm fun activities that you will actually look forward to!
For example, I love watching TV, and therefore I catch-up on my favourite show while riding my stationary bike! Other people prefer having a “productive” mode of aerobic activity – such as cycling to work or chopping firewood.
Make a Plan:
It’s completely OKAY to start small – for example, going for a 10 minute walk 2x per week
Consistency is key!
The hardest part is getting started! As Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion proclaims, “An object at rest remains at rest…unless acted on by an unbalanced force” (8). Consider this blog to be your “unbalanced force”!
Once you get movin’ and groovin’, you’ll find that it will get easier over time…and you can use Newton’s first law to your advantage – “an object in motion remains in motion” (8)!
Tell your friends and family about your plan!
They may not only provide social and emotional support, but they may want to join in on the fun!
Don’t forget to reward yourself!
Perhaps, soaking in the bathtub after doing your strength training session
OR buying yourself that new book you’ve been eyeing after doing your exercises for 3 weeks in a row
OR putting a sticker on a calendar every time you do some physical activity so you can see and track your progress!
Consistency is key – as the Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper states:
“Exercise is a journey, not a destination. It must be continued for the rest of your life. We do not stop exercising because we grow old – we grow old because we stop exercising” (9)
If you have any questions or concerns about what type and amount of exercise is safe for you, please contact any one of us at InReach Physiotherapy!
By: Susan Herdman, 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 also collaborates with Northern Health, Island Health and the First Nations Health Authority.
Brooks, GA, Fahey TD, & Baldwin KM (2005). In Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and Its Applications 4th Ed – Chapter 32: Aging and Exercise (p 834-851). McGraw Hill, New York, NY.
Volpi, E., Nazemi, R., & Fujita, S. (2004). Muscle tissue changes with aging. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 7(4), 405–410. Accessed Dec 8/’21: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804956/
Bohannon R. W. (2019). Grip Strength: An Indispensable Biomarker For Older Adults. Clinical interventions in aging, 14, 1681–1691. Accessed Dec 8/’21: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6778477/
ParticipACTION Canada (2021). ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults. Accessed Dec 9/’21: https://participaction.cdn.prismic.io/participaction/e98e050d-90a2-43bd-a49d-e7c288071725_2021-ParticipACTION-Report-Card-on-Physical-Activity-for-Adults.pdf
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2021). 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (18-64). Accessed Dec 9/’21: https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines/adults-18-64/
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2021). 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (65+years). Accessed Dec 9/’21: https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines/adults-65/
Government of Canada (2018 Oct 1). Publications – Healthy living: Physical Activity Tips for Adults (18-64 years). Accessed Dec 8/’21: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/physical-activity-tips-adults-18-64-years.html
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (2021). Newton’s Laws of Motion. Accessed Dec 8/’21: https://www1.grc.nasa.gov/beginners-guide-to-aeronautics/newtons-laws-of-motion/
AZQuotes. Kenneth H. Cooper Quotes. Accessed Dec 8/’21: https://www.azquotes.com/author/3253-Kenneth_H_Cooper