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Your grip strength can reflect your overall muscle health and help predict how long you'll live, according to Richard Bohannon, physical therapy professor at the University of Connecticut. Grip strength tends to decrease as you age, especially in women. A woman in her early 30s average a grip strength of 70 pounds, but once she hits her early 80s, that strength decreases by nearly half. As seniors lose grip strength, they lose independence; they can no longer open jars, bottles, refrigerators or standard door knobs. However, there's a simple exercise safe for seniors at any age and any grip strength.
Warm up your hands before exercising them. Grip exercises can lead to finger and wrist strain if the muscles aren't stretched first. Place your hands together in front of your body with only the fingertips touching. Move your palms in and out 10 times to stretch the muscles of the hand and fingers. Bend one wrist backward as far as is comfortable. Press down on the tips of the fingers with your other hand gently, deepening the stretch. Hold it for 10 seconds and repeat with your other wrist.
Grip a soft stress ball in one hand. Squeeze the ball as hard as you comfortably can.
Hold the squeeze for three seconds and release. Repeat the squeeze and hold until you've completed 10 repetitions, then do 10 repetitions with your other hand.
Add intensity to the exercise once the soft stress ball becomes easy to squeeze by using a firmer stress ball. Work your way up to a tennis ball, then to a racquetball, which is smaller, firmer and harder to squeeze.
- Add a dexterity exercise to your grip-training regimen by holding the ball with your index finger and thumb. Switch to your middle finger, ring finger and pinky, pressing the ball against your thumb. Repeat the exercise backward, starting with your pinky.