Arthritis and Running: Myth or Fact?
A common question I get is if I keep running or start running, is knee arthritis more likely? Well, you will be happy to know that research has shown otherwise. A study published by Chakravarty et al. in 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at 538 runners and 423 healthy non-runners of at least 50 years of age. They filled out health-related surveys starting in 1984 and were followed for 21 years. The results showed a mortality rate of 15% in the runners group and 34% in the non-runners group. That’s more than twice the death rate in the non runners group. Furthermore, the runners were less likely to be physically disabled at the conclusion of the study. Osteoarthritis(OA) was examined in a smaller sample of participants from the original study (53 non-runners and 45 long-distance runners, most of whom had been running for over a decade with a beginning average age of 58 years). The author followed this group for 18 years from 1984 to 2002 and took knee x-rays six times during that time period. The results showed that OA was no more prevalent or severe in the running group compared to the control. In fact, the control group yielded a higher prevalence of OA; however, the difference was not considered statistically significant. The non-running group also reported a higher number of knee replacements than the running group during the 18-year study.
In my opinion, running is healthy for the knee joint because it helps build stronger cartilage and muscles. However, with that said, running with improper form, muscle imbalance, or poor footwear can lead to micro-trauma resulting in earlier onset osteoarthritis. It is always important to have a strengthening program in adjunction to running to keep your muscles strong and well balanced.
As always feel free to email with any questions regarding an injury.
Alex Volfson PT,DPT