A new study has now shed new light on how grip strength changes across the lifespan. The latest research combined data from 12 British studies and included grip strength readings from 49,964 participants, aged four to 90 years and above, and combined them to produce reference charts.

"We found that men were typically stronger than women from adolescence onwards but both men and women reached a peak level of strength during their 30s before becoming weaker with age," said Richard Dodds from University of Southampton.

Earlier studies showed that people with weaker grip strength in midlife are more likely to develop problems like loss of independence and to have shorter life expectancy. But very little was known on what might be considered a normal grip strength at different ages.

"We are now clear about the range of normal strength in young adults and have used this information to propose levels below which an older person would be considered to have weak grip strength," Dodds pointed out.

Hospital doctors could use the information to help interpret measurements of grip strength."Grip strength has been recommended for the assessment of muscle strength in the clinical setting and this study will aid the recognition of important conditions such as sarcopenia and frailty," noted Avan Aihie Sayer, professor of geriatric medicine at University of Southampton.

The study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.

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