4 Steps to Stronger Hands : Still having a tough time cracking open a brand new jar of pickles? Is your hand cramping or growing fatigued when you hold your smartphone up for an extended amount of time? If so, you may be dealing with weak grip strength, an issue you will want to address now before age-related wear and tear makes it worse.
Steps to Stronger Hands
Why is grip strength important?
So you’re not free climbing a steep rock face or diving into heavy weightlifting, is a good grip necessary to your basic day to day functioning as a woman? Absolutely. Hand strength isn’t just a good indicator of your overall muscle strength and coordination, it can also be a key player in staving off common chronic diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
You might be surprised to learn that the hand actually has 27 bones in it, the fingers don’t have any muscles in them, and that the wrist is the most anatomically complex joint in your body. Innervated by three main nerves, and largely controlled by muscles in the palm and forearms, your hands are one of the most intricate designs of biological machinery, and thusly, one of the most important factors in your own health and longevity.
Strong, nimble hands are a part of everyday tasks you might not even think of – lifting grocery bags, pushing yourself up out of a chair, picking up your small children. Reinforcing your hand strength and flexibility earlier in life can mean the difference between aging in place independently or requiring more and more help as an older adult. Healthy hands also foster a more robust aptitude for exercising and eating right.
How can I improve my hand strength now?
The great news is that only small, routine steps are needed to make a big difference in the health of your hands. Don’t miss these effective exercise ideas:
1. Use a forearm gripper
The forearm muscles which help move the hands and fingers include the flexor carpi ulnaris, palmaris longus, flexor carpi radialis, and pronator teres amongst others. They control the movement of the wrist, thumb, palm, and fingers and can be toned and strengthened just like any other muscle in your body. A good forearm gripper is a tool that serves to be repeatedly squeezed and released by the hand as an exercise in building grip and pinch strength. Daily exercise with a forearm gripper can be done easily at home, at work, on your commute, you name it.
2. Try yoga
While it might seem like yoga focuses on core strength and arm and leg flexibility, it can also have a powerful effect on your hand strength. Poses which require weight-bearing on the hands and wrists can help build muscle and bone density, while “Mudras” ( yoga gestures meant to meant to facilitate the flow of energy in the body) support greater hand and finger flexibility.
3. Exercise fine motor skills
A significant aspect of hand health is your hands’ connection to your brain. Maintaining fine motor skills into old age builds a reserve of healthy brain cells and synapses (communication pathways) which can help stave off cognitive decline and potentially Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Fine motor skill practice often comes in the form of crafting – knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, collaging, coloring, origami, you name it! Any activity that gets you using the smaller muscles in your arm, wrist, and hands works – even playing video games or simply squeezing a stress ball.
4. Clean house
A surprising amount of hand exercises come into play when you’re going about everyday chores around the house. Everything from cleaning with squirt bottles, to balling up and uncrumpling paper, grabbing and lifting things, pushing fingers against large objects like a mattress or couch, opening and closing jars, even hanging clothes to dry on a line with clothespins. Be cognizant of your hand activity while you go about daily tasks and turn everyday items into exercise equipment for forearms; for example, give a tennis ball a few squeezes before you put it up with the kids’ sports equipment.
Too often injury or medical condition will limit the use of the hand – whether it’s a debilitating disorder like rheumatoid arthritis, an overuse injury like carpal tunnel, or general wear and tear from getting older. The stronger and agiler your hands are now, the better off you will be in the future should an impairment arise.
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