ALL THE TIME WE SPEND HOLDING ONTO OUR SMARTPHONES is having some serious effects on our bodies. Not only are we bending our necks forward at unnatural angles to peer down at the screens, but apparently we’re also weakening our grips.
A study that was published in the Journal of Hand Therapy found that the hands of millennials are getting weaker — and the hands of men, especially. The group of participants for the study consisted of 237 healthy mean and women between the ages of 20 and 34. Researchers measured the participants’ grip strength and their “lateral pinch strength,” which is basically how hard you can pinch together your thumb and pointer finger.
Then they took that data and compared it to the same measurements that were taken from a similar group, but back in 1985… well before smart phones ruled the world.
The researchers found that all of today’s men displayed lower strength in both categories, and that many of the women did as well, but only the ones up to age 30. The women who were in the age range of 30 to 34 did not show a weakened grip, which the researchers explain as their status as “millennial outliers.” The assumption is that the women on the older end of the scale have not spent as much time with smartphones in their hands, as their younger counterparts or men.
But just how important is it to have a good grip? According to the researchers, it’s actually quite important. We of course use our hands all day for countless different tasks, so we probably want them to work at full capacity. Plus, a strong grip doesn’t just mean that you have a strong grip — it also means that you have strong wrists and arms. It all works together, you know.
Additionally, researchers pointed out that low grip strength has been linked with higher mortality rates around the world. Not that this means your health is necessarily in trouble because your hand is weaker than average, but keeping the hands healthy and happy is something to consider.
Frequent texting and scrolling can lead to inflammation of the small muscles in the hands, which can feel like carpal tunnel syndrome. “Smartphone thumb,” also called “trigger finger,” is a real issue that used to only be common in factory workers making repetitive hand movements all day. Now you can get that tendon inflammation just from swiping away on Tinder.
Of course, it’s possible to prevent some of the strain on the hands by being mindful about how much you’re using your phone and what for. The researchers of this particular study recommend taking regular breaks throughout the day and stretching out the fingers so that you make an “L” shape with the thumb a couple times each hour. Here are some easy strengthening techniques you can use with low-weight dumbbells to help develop your grip and wrist strength, as well. Happy texting.