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  • Smart Brevity™ count: 359 words ... 1½ mins.

1 big thing: The power of your hands

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The single most effective set of muscles you can work to extend your life is your hands.

Why it matters: This shocked us, too. But many health and fitness experts argue that since falling is the leading cause of injury-related death once we cross 65 years old, we should start strengthening our hands now.

Stunning stat: The threat is getting worse. Death by falling increased 30% from 2009 to 2018, according to CDC data.

  • Stronger hands grip tighter to prevent falls — and brace stronger when you tumble.
  • Grip strength is especially important for older adults who use canes, walkers or handrails or need assistance getting out of chairs, says David Bellar, a kinesiologist at UNC Charlotte.

What to do: The most effective way to improve your grip strength is a simple dead hang, which works like it sounds — hanging still from a bar with your feet off the ground. Start by holding as long as you can, then work your way up from there.

  • Or try the farmer's carry: Take a walk around your house or gym with two heavy objects in your hands.

You can also work on your grip while sitting down with some easy exercises. Here are links to two tools to use at your desk to build stronger hands:

  • This grip strengthener, which you simply squeeze, will record the number of times you use it so you can track your progress.
  • This power ball, which you rotate in your hand, comes recommended by Axios co-founder Roy Schwartz. It's especially effective for strengthening your wrists and relieving inflammation from arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

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❤️ Science to share

It's not just bracing yourself. Scientists have linked stronger hands to healthier hearts.

  • A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that higher grip strength was correlated to lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar and higher good cholesterol levels.

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