To all the dedicated daily runners out there, AND everyone who has ever debated starting – listen up, because science has just produced some great news for you. Now, some folks might still believe that “running is bad for your knees,” depending on who you talk to. Most everyone has at some time in their lives been convinced of this all too common myth; that while running is a fantastic cardiovascular workout, the constant and repetitive pounding on the asphalt will wreak havoc on your knee joints in the long run. Maybe this is the very reason why you have stopped running as part of your daily workout, or why you’ve been hesitant to begin jogging in the first place. But as it turns out, this popular notion is nothing more than a myth.
A new study on the long-term effects of running found NO evidence connecting it to the development of knee osteoarthritis. In fact, aside from not harming the knee joints, running was shown to be beneficial. Imagine that! All this time people have been leery that consistent jogging and pressure on the knees would harm them, when it actually contributes to healthier and stronger knees by reducing inflammation in the joints, further delaying development of degenerative diseases, like osteoarthritis.
So, you may be wondering how this is possible. How does constant pounding on the knee joints make them healthier? Well, it’s like the way that weight bearing exercise, such as lifting weights, increases muscle mass (and bone mass as well) and makes them stronger. For example, during a weight lifting session the muscle undergoes thousands of tiny microscopic tears in its fibers and can regenerate and repair itself. In this process, the muscle accumulates more mass and becomes stronger and healthier. The same concept holds true for the bones and cartilage of the knee joint. The impact of body weight on the joints appears to stimulate the cartilage to repair minor damages as well as release certain proteins in the cartilage that strengthen it, thus making the healthy stress on the knees more of a positive than a negative.
Of course, there are exceptions (aren’t there always?). Generally, for all young, healthy individuals, consistent jogging or running can be a catalyst to long-term joint health. But there are a few instances in which it can be the opposite. Having suffered any significant knee injury, especially one that required reparative surgery, is a giant bright yellow caution flag to the running scene, as the joints may not have the full working capacity they once did. The same caution holds for those who are more than 20 pounds overweight. Jogging with this extra stress on the joints skyrockets the risk for inflammation and cartilage damage. For these individuals, it’s recommended to first lose those extra pounds by non-weight bearing means until the body is at a weight that is appropriate for the joints to support. And as always, be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any new running routines.
Armed with this new research in favor of long-distance running, it’s clear that the old way of thinking is indeed a thing of the past. So ladies and gentlemen, (physical condition willing) lace up those running shoes, hit the pavement, and give your knee joints the health and protection they deserve!