Could a Stronger Grip Suggest Higher Cognitive Functioning?

You can tell a lot by an athlete’s hand, and no, I’m not referencing palm reading or any other form of visual assessment that make claims based upon…uh…science.

In this article, I’m referencing physical characteristics of the hand, more specifically, grip strength. Over the last few years, there’s been a fair amount of research done on grip strength and how it can relate to things like overall health, mortality rates, athleticism, and maximal strength.

In academia, grip strength tests are great because they’re relatively easy to use and multiple populations can use them. For this reason, it’s always cool seeing new research focused on grip strength and its relationship to other life attributes. Because after all, if you’re a strength athlete, then you most likely have a strong(er) grip, so research showing positives to having a great grip is always good news.

[Did you know finger length also positively rates to an athlete’s maximal grip strength? Check out what the research has suggested, here!]

Grip Strength and Cognitive Performance

A study published a few days ago looked at how grip strength related to cognitive performance in both the general population and a population that has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Researchers were interested in how one’s grip strength influenced their cognitive performance in multiple domains, and they were interested in analyzing those with schizophrenia and other cognitive deficit disorders.

For this article, we’ll focus a little more on the general population findings, as this will most likely relate best to those reading this article.

Procedures & Methods

Researchers pulled data from 475,397 participants from all over the United Kingdom. They compiled their data by utilizing information from the UK Biobank. To analyze cognitive performance, researchers assessed the brain using multiple tests, which included,

  • Reaction Time
  • Reasoning
  • Numeric memory
  • Visuospatial memory
  • Prospective memory

To assess grip strength, researchers used a grip dynamometer. They had participants record both their left and right hands in the same manner throughout the study to keep test results consistent. In addition to assessing grip and cognitive functioning, researchers documented every participants age, weight, gender, and education.

[In strength training, grip can be a limiting factor. Here are 9 movements to make sure your grip doesn’t hold back your performance.]

Findings & Suggestions

For the general population, researchers found that higher grip strength was significantly/positively related to visual memory, reaction time, reasoning, number memory, and prospective memory. In addition to the general population, researchers saw similar positive relationships with some cognitive performance markers and those with schizophrenia and other cognitive deficit disorders.

Head study author Dr. Joseph Firth told the University of Manchester in a press release“We can see there is a clear connection between muscular strength and brain health. But really, what we need now, are more studies to test if we can actually make our brains healthier by doing things which make our muscles stronger – such as weight training.”

What’s also unique about this research was that both age group above and below 55 saw positive relationships, as opposed to only the older population. Hopefully as the year and research progresses there will be findings about strength and cognitive function. We know there’s a relationship, but why exactly?