If you’ve noticed that your hands don’t grip as well as they used to, join the club. A woman in her thirties might have a grip strength of around 70 lbs, but a woman in her eighties might have a grip strength of possibly 37 lbs.

This strength portends far more than just how strong your hands are. It’s an indication of your overall muscle tone, your body strength, health and indeed, possibly how you long you’ll live.

When your upper body reflects strength, as in the power of your grip, that indicates good muscle mass and tone. That’s an indicator of a healthier body. If you sit too much, don’t move around, exercise or use your arms in a way that works the muscles, your body atrophies.  This makes you frail, which leaves you far more susceptible to falls, a major killer of older people.

Without regular exercise, the body begins to lose muscle mass, called sarcopenia, after middle age, at a steady rate of about 1% each year. This doesn’t have to be the case at all. Through regular exercise, whether using our body weight, dumbbells, yoga or any of a number of methods we can easily stave off sarcopenia and even build more muscle. And grip strength.

I like to do pull ups and chin ups. There’s a doorway Iron Gym pull up bar (about $24 on Amazon) that allows me to do these exercises every time I pass by my bedroom. By doing a few chinups, pullups every single day, I keep my upper body strong. They weren’t easy in the beginning. You start with what you can do, even if you stand on a chair.

In addition, I keep a hand squeezer in my car. This device is a gripper that, depending on the kind you buy, you can sometimes set to a certain strength so that you can work up to higher levels as you build your grip. These grippers are inexpensive, usually under $20.00.

This way, rather than drive distracted on my phone, I am building my hand strength by doing sets of fifteen reps in between appointments in time to music.

Staying in charge of our strength means giving ourselves options as we age. We can’t stop the clock but we sure can slow down the sarcopenia.