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Is running bad for my knees?

Running and knees

What about my knees?

Adults are recommended that they achieve 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to improve our health and running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that helps us to achieve this.

There is a persistent misconception about running and knee degeneration and the following beliefs tend to be quite common:

“Running will damage my knees”

“Running will worsen my knees”

“I can’t run because I have arthritis”

However this is not entirely true. Running can be a fantastic form of exercise to participate in and even at low running speeds has shown to be effective for:

  • Reducing mortality rate by up to 30%
  • Increasing Bone mineral density
  • Reduction in body weight

Recent Studies

A recent study looked at marathon runners (average age of 44) who were both trained and untrained runners. On MRI there was no significant risk of injuries, they had improved bone density and no worsened knee pain related to arthritic changes.

In addition to this, it has also been shown that:

  • There is no progression of osteoarthritis (on imaging) over an 18 year period In long distance runners
  • Pain in the knee is poorly correlated with imaging findings
  • There is no difference in symptomatic knee Osteoarthritis in those who run vs. those who don’t run
  • The strongest factors associated to progression of Knee arthritis is obesity and previous knee trauma

In conclusion

The health benefits of running far outweigh any potential detriment. We can be quite confident in saying that running is a safe sport for the knees, which does not significantly increase the risk of injury or degeneration of the knees.

 

Chakravarty et al. (2008) Long Distance Running and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Prospective Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 35(20); 133-138
Lane NE, Michel B, Bjorkengren A, et al. (1993) The risk of osteoarthritis with running and aging: a 5-year longitudinal study. J Rheumatol. 20:461-8.
Lane NE, Oehlert JW, Bloch DA, Fries JF. (1998) The relationship of running to osteoarthritis of the knee and hip and bone mineral density of the lumbar spine: a 9 year longitudinal study. The Journal of Rheumatology. (2):334-341.    
Lo GH, Driban JB, Kriska AM, et al. (2017) Is There an Association Between a History of Running and Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis? A Cross-Sectional Study From the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 69(2):183–191
M.Blagojevic C.Jinks A.Jeffery K.P.Jordan (2010) Risk factors for onset of osteoarthritis of the knee in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 18(1);24-33

 

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