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What Are the Best Strength-Training Exercises for People With Osteoarthritis in Their Hands?

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Three yoga mats rolled up

There are many great strength-training exercises that don’t require any gripping.

There are, says Los Angeles–based certified strength trainer Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift to Get Lean: A Beginner’s Guide to Fitness and Strength Training in Three Simple Steps.  

“There are many exercises you can do that don’t require gripping at all,” she explains. These include a whole range of moves that use your body weight as resistance and focus on your legs and lower body: squats, lunges, knee lifts, and more. 

“You can also use resistance bands for the upper and lower body,” Perkins suggests. “When you wrap the bands around your wrists, you can do a wide variety of pushing and pulling exercises that require only a little grip strength.” 

Other band options include chest presses, biceps curls, one-arm flys, overhead presses, side steps, and lunges. A trainer can help with suggestions appropriate to your level of fitness. 

Whatever you choose, she says, remember that exercise isn’t something you do in spite of osteoarthritis — it’s a key tactic for dealing with it. “If you don’t exercise your joints, your arthritis will not get better,” she says. 

Moving them regularly may alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis, increase circulation, and increase your wrists’ range of motion. (For a list of wrist-supporting strategies, visit “Fitness Fix: Help for Weak Wrists“.) An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce pain, too. (For joint-supporting nutrition strategies, see “Feed Your Joints“.)

This originally appeared as “I love to lift with kettlebells, but my hands are developing arthritis. Are there other strength-training options?” in the October 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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