Did you know that your handshake can tell a lot about your health? It’s true. Your handshake, and specifically, a weak handshake can tell more about you than you’d think. More than 30 studies, conducted during the past three decades, have found that a weak grip is associated with premature mortality and future disability among adults who are middle-aged or older. A weak grip has also been linked to conditions such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. That’s why today, more and more health-care professionals are using grip strength testing as a diagnostic tool for their patients.

Your hand strength reaches it’s peak in middle age and weakens as you age. A rapidly declining grip could be an indication of a health problem. Experts can’t directly link a strengthened grip to long life, but a strong grip can improve fitness and arthritis symptoms.

The American Council on Exercise suggests adding the following exercises to your routine at least four days a week:

Rubber-ball squeeze. Hold a rubber ball in one hand squeeze it hard for 5 to 60 seconds. Slowly release it and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times, then switch hands.

Dumbbell wrist curl. With a light dumbbell in each hand, kneel beside a bench or chair, while resting your arms on the seat. Turn your palms up and bend your elbows about 90 degrees while placing your wrists at the chair’s edge. Slowly bend your wrists, moving the weights downward, pause, then slowly roll your wrists up. Squeeze the weights hard during both movements. Now try doing this exercise with your palms facing down and do 10 to 15 repetitions.

*Information taken from the Consumer Reports on Health, February 2012.