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Running Safe For Your Knees, Says Exercise Experts

running and knee health

If you have been worried about damage to your joints from running, worry no more. The strenuous exercise has more benefits than risk.


It does seem that the pounding from running might increase wear and tear on your joints, particularly your knees, but exercise science research has shown this not to be true in the majority of cases. As long as you are protecting yourself from injury, the intense activity may actually help reduce inflammation rather than promote it.

The latest research, conducted at Brigham Young University, studied knee joint fluid of several healthy runners between the ages of 18 and 35. They were looking for signs of inflammation in chemical markers both before and after a 30-minute run and found little difference.

"What we now know is that for young, healthy individuals, exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health," says lead author Robert Hyldahl, an assistant professor of exercise science at BYU.

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The latest research correlates well with past research on the subject. For example, a well-known long-term study conducted at Stanford University tracked nearly 1000 runners who were part of a running club and found that runner’s knees were no less healthy than nonrunners. What they did find was that the runners experienced less physical disability and had a 39% lower mortality rate than nonrunners.

So why the prevailing myth? “I think people have this misconception because we draw these conclusions from people who have run for a long time who have knee pain,” says Karen Morice, MD, an attending physician in the department of rehabilitation medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “But you know what else happens over time? People get older, which is exactly when arthritis all over the body happens — running or not.”

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Brigham Young University, press release, December 2016. Study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
Everyday Health: What Joint Docs Say About Running. May 2015
Time Magazine: Is Running Bad for Your Knees? Maybe Not. December, 2009

Photo Credit: via Wikimedia Commons