Hand grip strength has surprising links to quality of life and life span. Research published in the "Canadian Medical Association Journal" in 2010 suggests that low grip strength in the elderly is associated with increased mortality. Decreased hand grip strength probably indicates an overall decline in total-body strength, which affects a person's ability to perform daily activities and function normally. You can preserve or improve your grip strength by incorporating hand grip exercises into your normal exercise routine or by using inexpensive tools.
Hand grippers are shaped like a "V" approximately three to five inches long with two metal "arms" connected by a central torsion spring. You grip both arms in one palm and squeeze your fingers and thumb together, working against the resistance of the central torsion spring. According to the website GripFAQ.com, use of a hand gripper requires significant thumb and wrist strength, rather than whole-hand strength, so you may need to work with another tool before progressing to this one.
According to the Tufts University's Growing Stronger website for older adults, a simple tennis ball can help you improve grip strength. The ball's hollow center makes the ball slightly flexible and responsive to a squeeze. Simply hold the ball in the center of one hand and squeeze it tightly for three to five seconds. Relax your grip briefly, then repeat the exercise up to 10 times before switching hands.
Grip strength comes into play during sports when you throw a ball, grip a bat or club or tackle an opponent. Perform exercises that will improve grip strength while also enhancing wrist and forearm strength. You can use lightweight dumbbells or a lightweight barbell to perform these exercises. For example, sit on a bench while holding a lightweight dumbbell in your right hand. Rest your right forearm on your thigh with your palm facing up. Bend your wrist down toward the floor and slowly uncurl your fingers, allowing the dumbbell to roll down your hand. Before you drop the dumbbell, curl your fingers in toward your palm, pulling the dumbbell back toward your wrist. Tighten your forearm and curl your wrist upward until your palm faces your body. Repeat the exercise 10 to 12 times with each hand.