I love to run. I am a runner. As I embark on my longest race, The Northface 100 (100km through the Blue Mountains of NSW), I am often confronted by comments such as “that cannot be good for you” and “ that must be bad for your knees/joints”.
A new study has found those who habitually run at any stage in their life do not increase their risk of developing the painful disease.
In the past, experts have advised runners to be careful, after making possible links between regular running and osteoarthritis, or OA.
Now, however, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, believe the exercise can help protect runners from the condition
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 3,000 participants in a long-term study. After eight years, participants reported on their main form of activity during four stages of life: 12-18 years old, 19-34, 35-49, and 50 and older. If running was one of their three main activities during one of these stages of life, they were classified as a runner (at that specific time).
Using the above information, knee x-rays (taken twice with a two-year span in between) and participants’ reports of symptomatic pain, the researchers classified 22.8% of the runners as having osteoarthritis, as opposed to 29.8% of non-running participants.
Not only does this disprove the belief that running hastens knee damage, it also suggests that running can be protective. Better yet, it doesn’t matter what age you are when you begin running; those who habitually run at any stage won’t experience added risk of developing the painful disease. In fact, the average age of participants was 64.7.
OA is the most common joint disease affecting middle-age and older people.
It is characterised by progressive damage to the joint cartilage – the cushioning material at the end of long bones – and causes changes in the structures around the joint.
The changes can include a build-up of fluid, the development of a bony overgrowth, and loosening and a weakness of muscles and tendons, all of which may limit movement and cause pain and swelling.
They found runners, regardless of age when they ran, had a lower prevalence of knee pain, radiographic and symptomatic OA than non-runners. People with the lowest BMI scores were the most likely to report being habitual runners.
Regular running, even at an amateur level, does not increase the risk of developing knee OA but actually may protect against it, the scientists concluded.
‘This does not address the question of whether or not running is harmful to people who have pre-existing knee OA,’ Dr Lo said.
‘However, in people who do not have knee OA, there is no reason to restrict participation in habitual running at any time in life from the perspective that it does not appear to be harmful to the knee joint.
It seems clear to me that I am in no danger of wearing out my knees and am most likely helping stave off OA, and if you needed more reasons to run…
Do it anywhere
Run, that is. Whether on the treadmill or in the park, it’s easy to rack up miles. Even better: Try lacing up the sneakers on that next vacation to explore a new place
Visit the doctor less
It’s not only apples that can keep the doctor away. Active people are less likely to develop colon cancer. And ladies, women who regularly engage in intense workouts like running can reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 30 percent.
Eat more carbs
Who doesn’t love a pasta dinner? Now there’s an excuse to slurp up more spaghetti. During intense training like preparing for a race (sorry, channel surfing doesn’t count) increasing carb intake might help running performance and boost mood during harder runs.
Slip into skinny jeans
Running is one of the best calorie burners out there. For a 70kg person it can burn more than 850 calories an hour. Not like we’re counting or anything.
Exercise has been shown to help keep the mind sharp and could even reduce symptoms of dementia. Hitting the track might also protect the brain against Alzheimer’s, even among those with a family history of it.
Older runners can keep their balance better than non-runners, protecting their knees and tendons in the process. Be careful not to overdo it, though: Too much exercise can lead to stress injuries and bone loss.
Turn down the pressure
Running is a natural way to keep high blood pressure at bay—and fast. Amping up workouts can help lower blood pressure in just a few weeks.
Build stronger bones
Resistance training is awesome, but word on the street is that running might help produce even stronger bones than cranking out reps. As an impact exercise, running helps build the muscle that lower-impact workouts ignore, keeping bones healthier even as they age.
Now if that lot doesn’t have you running out the door I don’t know what will. Happy running!
If you require some extra attention for injuries or tight muscles come and see one of our Physios or Massage Therapists or schedule a visit with our podiatrist to check how your running style and shoes compare! These services are all available at Chevron Island Physio and can be booked by calling 5504 7000.