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At-Home Grip Strength Exercises for Seniors

Without a firm grip, seniors can lose the ability to safely perform everyday tasks such as using a can opener, turning door knobs, or holding onto railings. Conversely, keeping hands strong can help older adults maintain an independent lifestyle and reduce accidents.

The grip strength of seniors can be a measurement of good health or indicate risk of poor cognition, sleep issues, and depression. According to Dr. Peter Attia, founder of Early Medical, “Not enough can be said about the importance of grip strength as you age. It’s one of the strongest physical associations with longer life.”

To improve hand dexterity and power, here are effective at-home grip strength exercises that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

Nerve glide

Ulnar nerves are easy to trap or injure, reducing their ability to glide, which impedes grip strength. This nerve glide exercise frees tension to return proper function to your hands.

Start by placing the index finger and thumb into the “okay sign” with the fingers pointing up. Next, bring your arms slightly forward, bend the elbows, then gently twist your wrists backward toward your ears like you are drinking from a cup. Hold for several seconds as you feel the stretch, then release. Repeat three sets of ten daily.

Power pinch

Pinching objects between your thumb and fingertips can quickly increase muscle strength in your hands. Start by holding your arms down by your sides. Next, grab a book or other thin object and pinch it tightly using only your fingertips. Hold as you can, up to one minute, then release.

Repeat on each hand fifteen times. Perform the exercise every other day.

Gripper sessions

A grip-strengthening tool increases crushing strength. The device has two bars you hold in one hand, with a spring that creates tension in the center. You squeeze the bars together and hold for five to ten seconds, then release.

Another option is to squeeze a stress or tennis ball in the palm of your hand. Use constant slow pressure, hold for ten seconds, release, and switch hands. Perform ten to fifteen reps a day.

Thumb builder

This series of thumb exercises will increase your grip strength and help you pick up small or thin objects like silverware or a pencil. Perform this routine weekly, with a minimum of two days’ rest between sessions.

  1. 1. Bend the elbow and extend the forearm in front of you with the thumb pointing inward. Move the thumb to touch each fingertip one at a time, creating an “O” shape. Hold each position and gently squeeze for 12-30 seconds. Repeat three to four times per hand.
  2. 2. Hold your palms facing you. Keep your fingers stationary, and focus on pulling your thumb over by bending it at the bottom joint to try to touch the base of your pinky finger. Hold the extension for 30 seconds, release for a few seconds, then repeat.
  3. 3. Hold your palm up, stretch out your fingers and thumb as far as you can, and hold it for ten seconds. Then, while keeping fingers spread, move your thumb as far over to your pinky finger as possible and hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat five to ten times on each hand.
  4. 4. Grab a large, wide rubber band. Place it around your hand at the base of your finger joints and over the top of your thumb. Put your hand on a table and slide your thumb away from the fingers, letting the rubber band create tension. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, release, then repeat 10-15 times per hand.

Wrist flexion and extension

This exercise strengthens and stretches the wrist and forearm muscles without needing weights or other equipment. However, you can use a towel or exercise band to create tension if you find it easier than using your hand.

Start by holding one arm out in front of your body with the elbow straight and palm flat and down. Place your other hand (or towel or band) on top and gently push the entire hand and fingers downward, feeling the stretch in the top of the wrist and forearm. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds, then release and change hands. Repeat 10-20 times on each side.

Switch your arm position to your palm and elbow facing upward and your hand flat. Gently push the open palm downward using your other hand until you feel the stretch in your wrist and forearm muscles. Hold for the same 15-20 seconds and change hands as above. Repeat 10-20 times per hand.

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