Handshake reveals life expectancy

Last updated 15:01 13/09/2010
FIRM GRIP: Hand strength is an indicator of life expectancy, researchers find.
Fairfax Media
FIRM GRIP: Hand strength is an indicator of life expectancy, researchers find.

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A firm handshake and brisk walk could be indicators of a longer life expectancy, researchers claim.

Scientists at the Medical Research Council analysed the results of 33 studies into the link between ability to carry out simple physical tasks and age of death.

They found people who performed better at tasks including gripping, walking, rising from a chair and balancing on one leg tended to live to a riper age.

Tens of thousands of men and women across the globe took part in the studies, some of which followed participants for 43 years.

Of the 14 studies dealing with grip strength, it was found that those with the strongest hand grasps tended to live longer than those with feeble ones.

This was the case even after age, sex and body size was taken into account.

Likewise slow walkers were found to have a greater risk of an earlier death compared to those with a brisk stride.

Most of the studies were carried out on older people. But the authors of the paper, published in the British Medical Journal, insist the study goes further than simply linking physical fitness with life expectancy.

They suggest that a person's ability to perform everyday tasks could help predict their mortality.

Dr Rachel Cooper, of the Medical Research Council's Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, said: "Simple non-invasive assessment measures like these, that are linked to current and future health, could help doctors identify those most vulnerable to poor health in later life and who may benefit from early intervention to keep them active for longer."

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