Hand function is crucial for maintaining independence in daily life activities. Hands perform countless small and large tasks each day – such as brushing teeth, raking leaves, pouring coffee, sewing, or knitting. Hand stiffness can make simple tasks overwhelming.

According to an article published in The Journal of Gerontology, hand function decreases with age in both men and women, especially after the age of 65. [1] The age-related challenges often relate to grip strength and hand dexterity in the elderly population.  Common conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis are factors in impaired hand function.

One easy and noninvasive way to help keep joints flexible, improve range of motion, and relieve arthritis pain is by doing hand exercises. The British Medical Journal published a study about how various stretches can help promote full hand function and range of motion. The study found that the participants with rheumatoid arthritis had improved hand function after practicing hand exercises. [2] Exercise and stretching can also help maintain joint movement and flexibility, and relieve stiffness.

Researchers used exercises such as:

  • Increase flexibility with flat-hand finger lifts, placing hands flat and slowly raising each finger off the table
  • Increase range of motion by making a fist, keeping the thumb across fingers and not beneath them
  • Improve grip by “walking” the fingers toward an object
  • Increase dexterity with finger pinches, touching the thumb to the tip of each finger
  • Maintain flexibility by spreading the fingers as far as possible and holding for several seconds


[1] E. Carmeli, H. Patish, R. Coleman. The Aging Hand. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Vol 58. (2). February 2003. Pages N146-M152. Doi:10.1093/geronb/gbz146.

[2] Williamson E, McConkey C, Heine P, et al. Hand exercises for patients with rheumatoid arthritis: an extended follow-up of the SARAH randomized controlled trial. BMJ Open 2017; 7: e013121. Doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013121.