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: