Rowing Machine

Look for:

• A bar attachment, rather than individual cables. “A bar is easier to hold, especially if you have arthritis in your hands or wrists,” says Rabinoff.

• A machine that uses air or a fluid-filled chamber to create resistance. “Machines that used stacked weights make rowing motions less smooth and tend to be less forgiving on the joints,” says Florez.

Stay safe by:

• Starting with the lowest resistance possible to avoid accidentally over-straining your muscles and joints.

Engaging your core through the entire range of motion. “You can use a rowing machine if you have arthritis in your spine, shoulders or hips – if you engage your core muscles to prevent wear and tear on small joints,” says Florez. Sit with an upright posture and a neutral spine, and keep your stomach and back muscles pulled in as you move.

Resistance Bands

Look for:

• Tube-like bands with handles on the ends are easier to grip and position than flat bands that don’t have handles, says Florez.

• Sets of bands with different resistance levels. Many are color-coded according to their resistance. “You want to start with the lowest resistance and work your way up,” says Florez. Not sure if you’re using the right level? “You should be able to do about 15 repetitions; the last few should feel difficult, but not painful,” notes Florez.

Stay safe by:

• Running your finger up and down the band before you use it to check for cracks or rips that could cause it to tear apart during your workout.

• Making sure your band is securely positioned to a stationary object; your foot, the door, a pole, etc.

• Not relying solely on bands for your resistance workout. “You don’t get resistance all the way through the range of motion, which is why I tell patients to use hand weights or weight machines at least once a week,” says Lewis. 

Free Weights

Look for:

• Handles with rubberized grip, which are slip-resistant, easier to hold and ultimately kinder on hand, finger and wrist joints, say Lewis and Florez, who add that cuff weights are a good alternative if you have severe hand arthritis and find it difficult to grip a free weight.

• Non-adjustable weights. Weight-adjustable dumbbell sets are convenient, but they require a lot of fine motor movement, which can be difficult for those with finger, hand or wrist arthritis. Plus, “many people end up dropping the weights and injuring their feet,” says Dianne Doyle, a physical therapist at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria, Minn., who regularly works with patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Stay safe by:

• Skipping kettle bells, discs or other weights that don’t have a handle or can’t be attached around the wrists or ankles. “They’re hard for most people to grip, and it can be especially difficult to maintain proper form while using them, which increases the risk of injury,” says Lewis.