Getting a Grip on Life
May 20, 2023
Could your grip strength help keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay?
In his book, Outlive, Dr. Peter Attia discusses a study that shows there is an association between handgrip strength and dementia incidence. The weaker a person’s grip, the higher their chances for dementia. A strong grip does not necessarily mean a person won’t develop dementia, but statistically, the odds seem much better that they won’t. Or if they do, it will be later in life. Dr. Attia’s book also goes on to talk about how exercise is one of the best defenses against neurological and cognitive decline. Actually, exercise is one of the best defenses against ALL life-ending diseases.
I don’t know about you, but in my mind, one of the worst things in the world would be to lose one’s self due to dementia, not just for that person, but for those around them. Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 6.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s. That number doesn’t even touch the number of people who are affected by Alzheimer’s. Mental decline and loss of one’s self can bring tremendous hurt to one’s friends and family. No one wants to see someone they love slowly disappear before their eyes. That’s fairly close to torture; for everyone.
But what if you could prevent or even delay dementia? If exercise helps defend against disease and a strong grip could potentially protect the brain from neurological deterioration, why not have a simple daily movement plan as a type of living insurance? If not for yourself, for those who love you?
I think it’s in everyone’s best interest for us to develop a strong handgrip so we can potentially have a better grip on life and optimize our time here. A simple daily movement plan that utilizes and builds our grip strength could be one of our greatest time investments, a small investment with a huge return.
In the hope that it helps, I’m going to offer what such a movement plan may look like. If you don’t know where to start, just start here…
Do this Every Day
- Practice nasal breathing with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Try to fill your lungs up from the bottom to the top. This can help soothe your nervous system and even help combat inflammation in your body. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Rock back and forth on your hands and knees. Keep your eyes and head up on the horizon. This activates your vestibular system and activates both hemispheres of your brain. It “feeds” your brain “healthy” and safe information. This also soothes your nervous system. Rocking on your hands also stimulates the sensory receptors and muscles in your hands. This stimulation actually contributes to the health and strength of your hands and shoulders. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Practice hanging. A doorway safely installed pull-up bar could be a great health investment. It offers a very practical way to hang daily. Hanging has SO many benefits. It decompresses your spine, helps restore shoulder joints, and it seems it could potentially protect your brain because hanging strengthens the grip. If you can’t hang with your full body weight, simply keep your feet on the floor and challenge your grip with your partial body weight. There is a huge benefit to allowing your feet to rest on the floor while you hang! There is also a huge benefit to hanging with your feet suspended. Do what you can and do both! Do this for 3 to 5 minutes a day: Maybe hang for 30 seconds at a time for five attempts. When that is easy, add 10 seconds to each hang. If you get up to 2 minutes, just do this for 2 to 3 sets. You can also spread your hangs out throughout the day.
- IF you cannot hang, and even if you can, perform heavy suitcase carries. Carry a heavy weight (heavy is relative, I know) by your side and walk for time or distance. Aim for 20% to 30% of your body weight in one hand. Walk for 30 seconds to a minute and then switch hands. Do this for 10 minutes of total walking time. While you walk, practice nasal breathing with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This not only helps you breathe better but it also amplifies your grip strength. Oh, suitcase carries also build tremendous core strength. AND grip strength is connected to core strength.
This is a SUPER-simple daily routine that could take anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes. You can add to it or take from it what you like. The important thing is the daily part. By showing up every day, you place an “ask” on your brain and your body. This “ask” is met with an adaptation of strength in neural pathways and strength in body tissues. Basically, you are using your body, and if you use your body, you get to keep your body for longer than you would if you neglected to use it.
If you want even more movement to help keep your brain healthy well into your golden years, take brisk walks every day. If you can, take one after every meal. Do your best to get in 8,000 to 10,000 steps. Oh, and practice nasal breathing with your tongue on the roof of your mouth and swing your shoulders to match the movements of your hips. Use all four of your limbs when you walk! This really activates the whole brain and helps to keep it healthy.
I know this may seem too simple, but this is a starting point. You can do more if you want, but even If this is all you did every day, not only would you feel amazing, but you would be healthier inside and out, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And there is a good chance that you would be there, in sound mind and body, for your loved ones and those that need you later on in your life. For this reason, and even just the hope of this reason, it is totally worth having a daily movement plan. Move, use, and challenge your grip every day. In the long run of life, there may be few things more important than this.
May 22, 2023 at 01:26 PM
I read about grip strength in Peter Attia's book just yesterday -- and here you are, adding an exclamation point! I already walk, so now I just need to carry some weight. Thanks for the booster, Tim!
May 22, 2023 at 06:33 PM
Keep up the good work, Walt!