Recent study indicates running could protect knees from osteoarthritis

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A recent study has found  there are less cases of arthritis in runners, regardless of age.

New research was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology that, unlike what is often said about running being hard on your knees, shows it does not in fact increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees, and could even go as far as preventing the condition.

A long-term research study called the Osteoarthritis Initiative,  analysed data collected after researchers worked with 2,683 participants at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. Eight years after the beginning of the study, the participants reported on their main form of physical activity during four separate stages of life: ages 12-18, 19-34, 35-49 and 50+.

If one of the participants’ three main activities was running during any of the periods, they were officially labelled a runner for that period of their lives.

The researchers of the Osteoarthritis Initiative also gathered information from knee x-rays and any reports of indicative pain from the contributors of the study. Then knee x-rays were taken again two years later. Using these investigative measures, researchers were able to indicate that 22.8% of the participants who had been classed as a runner at some point as having osteoarthritis, compared to a significantly higher 29.8% of the participants who had never been a runner.

They therefore came to the conclusion that “Non-elite running at any time in life does not appear detrimental, and may be protective” in regards to developing knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, the average age of the participants in the study was 64.7, which is obviously very encouraging for avid runners out there, opposing the opinion that regular running causes damage to the knee. A large study published last year also reported that runners had almost 50% less cases of knee osteoarthritis than walkers. A theory suggests as runners have on average a lower body mass index, there is less strain actually placed on the knee. Other theories suggest that due to less ground contact time, there is less force on the knee generally when covering any given distance in comparison to the ground contact time that is involved in walking.


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First published on: 5 February, 2015 12:00 am