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Squeezing Hands Leads to a Sharper Memory.

In a recent study, it was discovered that memory responses can be accelerated by isometric handgrip exercises, such as squeezing a ball.

This technique provides a straightforward and accessible means of preserving mental flexibility and alertness. Physiological arousal is increased by this form of exercise, which readies the body for the intake of information. The potential advantages of such exercise can be applicable to individuals of all age groups.

In the field of cognitive science, extensive research has been conducted on the impact of exercise on brain activity. Our cognitive abilities are influenced by the benefits of regular physical activity, and some compelling results have been generated by the most recent work in this field.

In a recent study published in the journal Psychology and Aging, titled “Isometric Handgrip Exercise Speeds Working Memory Responses in Younger and Older Adults,” insight is provided into how simple and accessible exercise may be used to enhance memory responses. The intriguing connection between exercise and memory that is unveiled can benefit both younger and older individuals.

Squeeze, Listen, and Recall

In the study conducted by Shelby Bachman, Sumedha Attanti, and Mara Mather, two groups were formed consisting of 109 participants. One group was comprised of younger individuals, aged 18 to 29, and the other consisted of elderly individuals, aged 65 to 85. The participants were assigned to either an exercise group where their hands were squeezed together in an isometric handgrip motion or a control group where this exercise was not undertaken.

Therapeutic balls were rhythmically squeezed by the members of the exercise group while music was listened to through headphones. Subsequently, a memory challenge involving the listening to and recalling of specific pieces of information was engaged in after these hand-squeezing sessions.

What was discovered by the scientists? The memory task was performed faster by those who had been squeezing balls compared to those who had not. Irrespective of the participants’ ages or the difficulty of the memory tests, it was found in the study that memory responses were accelerated through isometric handgrip exercises.

The Alert Benefit

Furthermore, it was observed by the researchers that the activity of pressing one’s hands together resulted in an increase in physiological arousal, a state of attention in which the body is energized and ready to absorb information. This indicates that this uncomplicated action, which enhances awareness, could also aid in the enhancement of our memory performance.

This is of significance for senior citizens who may encounter memory challenges and slower cognitive processing as they age. Therefore, there is no need for concern if one begins to forget things or experiences some mental sluggishness. A stress ball might be just what the brain needs more than anything else.

The Big Picture

Significant contributions are made by these results to the body of research demonstrating the benefits of exercise for cognitive health. It is heartening to contemplate how cognitive abilities can be enhanced through a simple and accessible workout.

This raises intriguing possibilities for strategies aimed at enhancing cognitive performance and health. In fact, straightforward activities such as incorporating the use of a stress ball into our daily routines can be considered as an enjoyable and easy means of preserving mental flexibility and alertness.


Studies such as this offer fresh insights as the global community directs its attention toward longevity and successful aging. In this particular study, the connections between exercise and cognitive performance are elegantly demonstrated, emphasizing how the path to improved memory can be made practical and effective through squeezing.

In simple terms, the practice of continuing to squeeze your stress ball is not only a way to alleviate stress but also a potential means to enhance memory.


Physiological arousal affects attention and memory, sometimes enhancing and other times impairing what we attend to and remember. In the present study, we investigated how changes in physiological arousal—induced through short bursts of isometric handgrip exercise—affected subsequent working memory performance. A sample of 57 younger (ages 18–29) and 56 older (ages 65–85) participants performed blocks of isometric handgrip exercise in which they periodically squeezed a therapy ball, alternating with blocks of an auditory working memory task. We found that, compared with those in a control group, participants who performed isometric handgrip had faster reaction times on the working memory task. Handgrip-speeded responses were observed for both younger and older participants, across working memory loads. Analysis of multimodal physiological responses indicated that physiological arousal increased during handgrip. Our findings suggest that performing short bouts of isometric handgrip exercise can improve processing speed, and they offer testable possibilities for the mechanism underlying handgrip’s effects on performance. The potential for acute isometric exercise to temporarily improve processing speed may be of particular relevance for older adults who show declines in processing speed and working memory. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

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