Reduced handgrip strength is associated with greater odds of cognitive impairment, according to new research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Nearly 14,000 participants, aged 50 and older, were followed for eight years. Investigators found that each 5-kilogram reduction in handgrip strength was associated with 10% greater odds for any cognitive impairment and 18% greater odds for severe cognitive impairment. 

The researchers theorize that reduced grip strength is associated with neural degeneration, underscoring the importance of muscle-building exercise.

“[T]his is another instance where you’re seeing that staying physically active affects your overall health and your cognitive health,” said study co-author Sheria Robinson-Lane, Ph.D., RN. She and her colleagues recommended that grip strength be measured in routine health evaluations of older adults. 

The researchers assessed handgrip with a hand-held dynamometer, and cognitive function with a modified Mini-Mental State Examination, which includes tests of orientation, attention, memory, language and visual-spatial skills.