Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Why Grip Weakness May Predict More Than Just More Frequent Losses To Jars

February 7, 2020


Sarcopenia is the age related loss of muscle mass found in all adults during the aging process. Specifically, the average male can expect to lose 8-10% of his muscle mass each decade after age 30. Thankfully both the amount and speed of this loss can be attenuated through strength training. Females and males participating in this form of exercise 2-3 days per week can reduce the slope of the decline in muscle mass (imagine a transition from a black diamond to a green bunny hill of loss). As a side note, it is never to late to strength train and adults can expect a 25-33% increase in strength following a short term program. Importantly, this loss of muscle mass is not only aesthetic in nature but plays an important role in the functional losses of life, work, and recreational activities seen with aging.

Authors have long sought to identify easy tests and measures which may help screen for early functional decline in the aging adult. Grip strength has moved forward as a quick, easy, and objective measurement of functional status in this population. This assessment may not only identify those with weakness and functional loss, but also those at risk for the mental, emotional, and physical components of frailty.

Syddall and colleagues investigated over 700 men and women (ages 64-74 y.o.) to identify the association between grip strength and commonly utilized aging markers (Age Aging. 2003). These markers included physical, cognitive, sensory, emotional, and cardiovascular measurements. Authors reported grip strength correlated better with these markers of aging than the participant’s chronological age. Although more markers were associated with grip in males, the females health markers also showed a strong correlation to grip strength. They concluded grip strength may be a more effective screen for a patient’s frailty and functional age than their chronological age. Patient’s are encouraged to work with a local, knowledgeable Physical Therapist to determine which exercises are most appropriate for their health and fitness goals.

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