A new study finds that stronger grip strength and better cognition in older adults may be able to prevent or delay disability.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggest that older adults who perform physical and mental training may be able to slow down their physical decline and potentially prevent future problems such as the loss of independence, reduced quality of life, the likelihood of developing depression and dementia, and even death.
Research suggests that a minimum level of strength is needed for good physical function. The stronger older adults are, the better able they may be to prevent future disability.
To further investigate whether being physically strong can ward off disability, a team of researchers examined the data of 30,434 people from a study known as SHARE, which surveys individuals aged 50 and older across most European Union countries and Israel every two years. The survey collects information about health, social and economic status, and participants’ social and family networks.
The researchers looked at the survey participants’ answers to 10 questions about their ability to do the following tasks:
- walk 100 meters (328 feet);
- sit for approximately 2 hours;
- get up from a chair after sitting for long periods;
- climb several flights of stairs without resting;
- climb one flight of stairs without resting, stooping, kneeling, or crouching;
- reach or extend their arms above shoulder level;
- pull or push large objects such as a living room chair;
- lift or carry weights over 10 pounds;
- pick up a small coin from a table.
Answers to all 10 questions were collected five different times. The researchers looked at the effects of grip strength and cognition and how those affected the participants over time.
Their findings reveal that maintaining grip strength and protecting mental ability might prevent or delay disability.
The researchers suggest that older adults who perform physical and mental training may be able to slow down their physical decline. This could prevent future difficulties such as the loss of independence, reduced quality of life, the likelihood of developing depression and dementia, and even death.
Previous research has shown a link between hand grip strength and brain health in adults of all ages. On average, stronger people performed better across every test of brain functioning, including reaction speed, logical problem solving and multiple different tests of memory.
In addition, maximal hand grip was strongly linked to visual memory and reaction time in over 1,000 people with psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.
Source: American Geriatrics Society