5 Easy Exercises That Keep Hands Young and Strong

Improve your range of motion and ease aches with these hand exercises.

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If you have stiff hands, it can be difficult to turn a key, open a jar or write. To ease the stiffness, aches and pains, move your hands every day.If you don't use certain motions in the hand, you will lose them,” says Sam Crosby, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopedics at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.

Try these five exercises to keep your hands moving freely, but remember to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine. If you feel pain, tingling or popping or are unable to do these exercises, see a hand specialist.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

Fist Flex

2 / 6 Fist Flex

“The fist flex helps make sure you have full digital range of motion,” says Dr. Crosby. Hold your hands upright, fingers apart. Gently draw your fingers into a fist, placing your thumbs on the outside. Don't squeeze or clench your fist. Hold for a few seconds, and then open your hands back to the starting position with fingers spread apart. Hold your hands open for a few seconds, and then repeat the fist movement. Do 5 to 10 of these close-and-open sets.

Thumb Circles

3 / 6 Thumb Circles

Put your hands in the "thumbs-up" position, and gently rotate your thumbs in a circular motion. Switch directions after a few seconds or until you feel full range of motion in the thumb, adds Crosby.

“Thumb circles are one of the most beneficial hand exercises as long as it doesn’t cause you extreme pain,” says Crosby.

Tip Touch

4 / 6 Tip Touch

Hold your hands upright, with your fingers spread comfortably apart. Touch your thumbs to the tips of your littlest fingers on the same hand, and then open your hands back up to the starting position. Repeat with the next closest fingers, and continue until your thumbs have touched all four fingertips on the same hand.

Pinch Strengthener

5 / 6 Pinch Strengthener

“As people age, they lose some of their pinch strength,” Crosby says. His solution? Buy some putty. “We use putty a lot of times in hand therapy because it provides more resistance,” he adds. If you don't have putty, a stress ball works just as well.

Pinch the putty or the stress ball between the tips of your fingers and thumb, hold for up to 60 seconds and repeat a dozen times on each hand a few times a week. 

Wrist Rotate and Flex

6 / 6 Wrist Rotate and Flex

This exercise is a great way to help mobility and keep full function of your wrist, says Crosby. Rest your forearms on the arms of a chair so your wrists are supported by the ends of the chair’s arms and your fingers hang free. Bend your wrists back, lifting your hands up toward you, and then lower your hands back down. Repeat the lifting and lowering 5 to 10 times. Next, try some rotations. Keep your elbows in place, and rotate your forearms so your palms are facing upward. Hold for a moment, and then rotate again, turning your palms back over. Repeat 5 to 10 times.


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