It’s a tale we’ve all heard: if you run too much, your knees will bother you as you age, and it will cause more pain, arthritis, and eventually knee replacements. All that impact and wear-and-tear can’t be good for your knees, especially if you train for long distances. Right?
I want to look into this topic as a runner myself and for colleagues who train for marathons. There’s a part of my brain that suspects part of this rumor was started by someone who hated running, and wanted an excuse not to, but that’s pure conjecture. Is there science to back up the claims?
Do the experts think running causes arthritis pain?
In 2005, the peer-reviewed journal Arthritis Research and Therapy published a 14-year prospective longitudinal study. They studied the same group of runners over the course of 14-years. One group ran an average of 26 miles per week and the control group averaged about two miles per week. On the surface, one would expect the runners to have more pain, but the results were the opposite. Those who exercised consistently (by running) had “about 25 percent less musculoskeletal pain” than the controls.
In a detailed article in Runner’s World, obesity is mentioned as a contributing factor to pain and arthritis. Keeping weight off can help decrease the stress in your joints and running certainly helps with weight loss. I know, I know, you only run unless you’re running FROM something, but give it a second look if you’re looking to prolong knee replacements.
What do physical therapists think?
From a physical therapist perspective, running builds good muscle endurance to do the same thing. The stronger your muscles, the more they can distribute stress without your joints taking all the load. This is why we talk about strengthening all the time. You can’t go wrong getting strong!
Granted, I haven’t spent years studying this topic, but I do consider myself an expert when it comes to exercise. There is nothing out there (that I’ve found) that says exercise is a bad thing. This doesn’t mean you should run through an injury, but running causing arthritis? It doesn’t appear to be the case. Why? Because exercise is medicine. Motion is lotion. Whatever phrase you prefer, the lesson is the same, and that is you should exercise!
So, runners rejoice. Tie up those laces and head out there! Check our blog and video on keeping your feet strong for those long distances.