Not all exercise equipment is made equal. In fact, “Features can vary widely from one model to the next – even when they’re created by the same manufacturer,” says Gregory Florez, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and certified trainer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. No surprise, then, that some home fitness equipment is better suited for individuals with arthritis than others. To safeguard your joints and make your next workout even more effective, use these simple guidelines when shopping for exercise machines, free weights and more.

Elliptical Trainer

Look for:

• A control panel that allows you to adjust incline and resistance (some models only have the former). “If you have arthritis in your lower extremities, especially your knees, you need the ability to keep the resistance low to take pressure off your joints,” says Marc Rabinoff, a professor in the Human Performance and Sport Department at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

• More than one hand placement – ideally, a set of moving and a set of stationary handles – so you can adjust for both comfort and balance, says Rabinoff.

• Wide foot placement pads. “They make it easier to adjust to a stance that’s best for your balance and neutral on your joints,” says Carole B. Lewis, PhD, a physical therapist with Professional SportCare and Rehab in the Washington D.C. area and an adjunct professor in the department of geriatrics at George Washington University. When you’re standing upright and not in motion, your knees should be in line with your hips – not above or in front of your feet. “If you can’t see your shoes, the foot panels on the machine are positioned incorrectly for your frame; choose another machine,” advises Lewis.

Stay safe by:

• Skipping pre-set programs. “They can change speed or incline too fast or unexpectedly, which increases the risk of muscle and joint strain, as well as falling. Instead, adjust your settings manually,” says Rabinoff.

Stationary Bike

Look for:

• A recumbent bike. Yes, you can use an upright bike if you have arthritis – but a recumbent bike makes it easier to maintain a proper posture, which results in less pressure on the spine and hip joints, says Lewis.

• A wide, cushioned seat. “With a too-small seat, there’s an uneven distribution of weight on hip joints and sit bones, which can contribute to joint pain and irritation. Plus, they make it more difficult to balance,” says Rabinoff.

• Variable controls so you can adjust your speed manually.

Stay safe by:

• Skipping straps on foot pedals. “They encourage the use of the wrong leg muscles, and if you lose balance, you can’t put your foot on the ground fast enough to prevent a fall and twisted joints,” says Lewis.

• Adjusting your seat to the right height. Ask a physical therapist or trainer to help you the first time). “When you extend your leg forward, there should still be a slight bend in your knee,” says Lewis.