Thursday, July 23, 2009

True or False: Running Causes Arthritis


We all love to run. How many of us have been enjoying a nice dinner with our grandma or grandpa when they pipe up, "You know, I knew someone who used to run. He's in a wheelchair now. Better be careful. You're going to ruin your knees!" Personally, I think they're just jealous of our fit, lean, muscular bodies. And although these comments are irritating, there's that nagging voice in the back of my head, "Is this true? Am I compromising my future ability to take a stroll down the beach?"

Turns out, scientists have pondered the answer to this question as well. Fortunately for all of us runners, numerous studies have found no correlation between running and the development of arthritis later in life. A study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy by Bruce et al (2005) compared senior runners averaging 26-miles away to a control group that averaged only 2-miles a week for 14-years. Surprisingly, the elderly runners reported less muscle and joint pain than the control group. An older study found similar results in elderly runners. In addition, the runners had a lower risk for mortality than the sedentary group. That running extends your lifespan has been further supported by other studies as well. A prospective study (2008) found no correlation between long-distance running and development of osteoarthritis in the knees. Scientists and medical doctors hypothesize that running builds up the muscle, tendons, and ligaments that support the joints, thereby preventing joint deterioration in the long haul. However, bad news for the sedentary--sitting on the couch and eating bon bons does predispose you to arthritis--extra weight is not good for your knees. In fact, numerous studies have shown that obesity is a high risk factor for the development of arthritis. Note that runners should take caution not to ignore pain or injury, however, because continuing to run on injured joints will lead to future joint damage (e.g. arthritis).

So run on folks! FALSE! Running is not bad for your knees. And, in fact, we may outlive our sedentary counterparts, who shook their fingers at us, warning that we would all end up in wheelchairs by age 50.

Links on running being a risk-factor for arthritis:
http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-241-285--9247-0,00.html
http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/23/hm.running.aging/index.html
http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=16646
http://walking-running-training.suite101.com/article.cfm/will_running_cause_arthritis

7 comments:

Steph said...

Yay! Thanks for the research. I do tend to get the "oh god you're going to ruin yourself!" comments when running comes up with family and some friends. Now I can confidently say studies have shown otherwise so can it. :)

bunnygirl said...

I have arthritis in the ball of my right foot from an injury when I was twenty. For more than a decade I had periods of excruciating pain when I could barely walk. Running actually improved my condition by loosening up the stiffened joint. I've been running nine years now and I never have arthritic pain any more.

So I would say that even if someone has arthritis already, get it checked out by a good sports doctor and get a recommendation. A lot of times, it's perfectly okay to exercise through arthritis pain, and if you keep at it, the pain will eventually stop. Do this only after getting competent medical advice, though!

untpawgal02 said...

Phew... I'm glad that stuff isn't true. And if it was... that wouldn't keep me from running.

Diana said...

A guy who works with my husband just had bilateral knee replacements done this summer and he ran for years-now he tells my husband to tell me I better stop running before I create any damage.
All I can say is you'll have to pry my running shoes and "active" wear off my dead body before I give it up!

Wes said...

I've already ordered my electric scooter!!! Do I HAVE to wait until I'm fifty to use it? ;-)

Caroline said...

I just keep telling myself the benefits far outweigh the risks. Thanks for posting the articles, it's nice to see science is on our side :)

zercath said...

Heard of an severe arthritis flare? It's an expression used by arthritis patients to convey that they are feeling worse. Essentially, it refers to an increase in symptoms. If you really are in a flare -- what should you do?