by: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
The Brits seem to be doing some interesting research these days on basic physical tasks and mortality. I mean really basic physical tasks like shaking hands. Sure a handshake is about the most widely recognized way of greeting someone worldwide and it’s just common sense that the way you shake someone’s hand matters in building a first impression.
But recent research reported in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), demonstrates that it’s more than first impressions and personality characteristics that show up in your handshake. It’s also when your LAST impression might be coming.
That’s right. Researchers studied more than 53,000, mostly elderly, people in the UK, and found that among the weakest, their death rate was 1.67 times greater than among those people with the stronger handshake grip.
This simple ritual of two people grasping hands with a quick shake carries with it all kinds of information but let’s face it. Between getting that job, impressing a client, offering congratulations or completing an agreement versus a signal of your mortality, it’s definitely your lifespan that takes top tier importance to you, right?
Did you know there are 8 different kinds of handshakes? From the “vice”, with the strongest grip as its name implies to the “dead”, the most relaxed (often called the “fish”), each one says something about your personality.
A good “firm” shake is the norm, while the “blood sucker” holds on a little too long, making it entirely uncomfortable—just when do you let go? “Wet hands”, from anxious sweat, “two hands,” as the name implies, and “encroaching” in which the handshake moves from between two people to a spot that’s invasively close to one or the other. And finally, the “dominant” in which one of the two people turns their arm so that their hand ends up above the other one’s. Obnoxious.
All of these 8 aside, it’s the strength of the grip that counts if it’s longevity that you are interested in. Remember, people in this study with the weakest grip had a 67 per cent increased risk of premature death compared with the strongest. Ask one of the trainers in The Sporting Club to show you how to develop your grip. While a stronger grip has been shown to be associated with increased mortality, strengthening your grip also directly influences how much weight you can lift. In the gym, there are two types of grip strength: crushing strength and pinching strength.
The first, crushing, is used when shaking hands or crushing a can of soda for example. The pinching grip is demonstrated by holding a heavy weight plate between your thumb and fingers and letting it hang towards the floor. The latter is more difficult to train for. The grip the Brits have demonstrated is associated with longer life, is the crushing grip, and that’s the one you want to develop. Some describe a third, called holding strength, the kind needed to pull your body weight up a mountainside—how much weight you can carry in a bucket with a good grip.
So regardless of your handshake style, do exercises that will develop your crushing strength.
Keep in mind that the British researchers have concluded in their research, “a steep decline in physical capability may be a better predictor of mortality than is the absolute level at a single point in time.” For this, simply insure that your exercise regimen stays consistent in order to keep your physical capability from declining.