Does Running cause Osteoarthritis?
In this article, I’m going to answer a simple question, one that I get a lot from my patients and that we’ve got from our members of the movement project.
The question is: ‘Will running wear out my knees?’
I think this is a great question, especially as my main goal is to get people to be more active. This assumption that running will wear out your knees makes sense when we think about it.
The logic goes; if we’re using our knees more, it’s going to lead to more wear and tear. This, in turn, is going to lead to osteoarthritis. Therefore, running isn’t necessarily good for me.
I’m going to let you know straight away that the studies that I’ve looked at would suggest that running does not lead to osteoarthritis of the knee.
What does the research say?
One 2018 study looked at habitual runners (people who run regularly). The study found that these habitual runners actually had lower instances of knee osteoarthritis, going against what you might naturally assume.
The authors discussed how this could be due to various factors. After all, just because habitual runners had less instances of knee osteoarthritis, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the running is responsible.
Osteoarthritis is a highly complex disease and we’re still not sure what the mechanisms are that lead to it. However, the study authors put forward that the reason for people having lower instances of osteoarthritis could be due to other factors.
These might have been because they had healthier lifestyles, they ate better or had lower instances of diabetes.
We know from looking at other research that if you have diabetes, you’re more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis regardless of what you do. In addition to lower instances of diabetes, the runners studied also tended to have lower BMI scores, which means they may have less mechanical load on their knees.
Therefore, the potential negatives of running are insignificant when we think about the potential benefits. My advice would be to my patients, if you enjoy running and you want to do it, start running.
How to start running if you suffer from Osteoarthritis
If you suffer from osteoarthritis already, depending on the severity, it may be more complicated for you to begin running. However, there are always ways to get started.
If you don’t do any exercise, going for a run is something to build up to. There are always other activities you can do to get yourself there.
- Going for a walk is a great way to get started.
- Start stretching; do some strengthening exercises at home.
- Go for a swim or a cycle.
All these things are an excellent way to get your body primed before you start running. With any exercise, it’s crucial that you start off going easy. Keep your volume low; begin with a run around the block. Give it a few days to see how your body feels and how it reacts. If you don’t get any problems, then try again and increase the distance.
I hope you found this article useful. If you want me to cover any other specific subjects, let us know.
Movement Project © 2019