Does a Firm Handshake Mean Living Longer?

It’s hard to imagine ourselves in later years… especially for the young. Yet the truth is, all of us are getting older all the time, and more and more research is finding that what we do while we’re young has a rather significant impact on the odds of living longer.

If you have a firm handshake and can get out of a chair quickly, walk fast and balance on one leg you’re likely to live longer than those of your age who have trouble doing these things according to new research appearing in BMJ (once known as the British Medical Journal). The researchers, a team out of University College London’s Medical Research Council, believe that these objective signs of physical strength can be used to predict mortality in older people.

The work, performed by Rachel Cooper, PhD and her team examined data from 33 studies, published before May 2009 that measured physical capabilities. There were 14 projects, including data on 53,476 subjects dealing with grip strength. The death rate among the weakest subjects was 1.67 times greater than among the strongest participants, after accounting for age, sex and body size.

They also looked at five other observational studies with 14,692 subjects. Here the team found that the death rate among people who walked the slowest was 2.87 times greater than peers who walked the fastest. The death rate among those who took the most time rising from a chair was about twice that of age matched subjects who were faster getting up.

The findings on grip strength and mortality held not only for older subjects, but younger ones too. Five of the studies on grip strength had subjects with an average age under 60. Today nearly 90% of older American aren’t doing what they need to hold onto muscle that begins to be lost at about age 40. Experts believe people lose about 8% of our muscle every ten years. Muscle loss can be slowed by being active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Objective, non-invasive measures of physical capability, like those identified by the UK study, will help doctors predict mortality and might give medicine a way to easily identify older people at higher risk for health problems and early death.

Simple medical testing could help pinpoint patients that are getting frail and intervene before things go too far. Still more work needs to be done… to see if keeping that grip strong and your walking pace up could lengthen your life.

Continues below…

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Strong Handshake = Longer Life..? Continued…

So, if you want to live longer… live better in your older years, greet people with a strong, firm handshake and keep up the pace when you walk. Being active today is important.

You’ll want to start out by focusing your efforts on three areas – aerobic activities (walking, biking, running, tennis, housework, gardening), flexibility (stretching) and building strength (pushing, pulling or lifting weights). When it comes to finding the time… you can do your workouts in easy, ten minute increments during the day or all at once, at least 5 to 6 days a week. Build slowly over time.

If you want to be living longer and enjoying doing the things you love… with the people you love, you need to take charge of your health and your future by getting up and getting active. Now.