Is running bad for your knees?

It’s strange how many people believe and then perpetuate the myth that running causes “knee problems” later in life.  If you’re a runner, and someone tries to tell you that you’re doing more harm than good, feel free to refer them to these quick points of research (which is just scratching the surface of available literature):

1) 1986 – This study compared the knees of runners vs. non-runners.   The runners ran an average of 28 miles/week for a 12 year period.  Pain in the hips, knees and ankles was not more prevalent in runners vs. non-runners.  Also, x-ray findings and did not show increased arthritis in runners vs. non-runners.  Journal of the American Medical Association. 1986;255(9):1152-1154

2) 2009 – This study reviewed all previous studies done up until January 2009.  They found that:

  • “The best evidence suggests that exercise, at least at moderate levels, does not accelerate development of knee osteoarthritis. Running seems to be particularly safe.
  • “marathon running does not seem to induce changes in joints or increase the risk of osteoarthritis in most studies.”

They also found that in runners…

  • “There is evidence for reduction in lower-extremity disability and all-cause disability in self-selected runners compared with controls.”
  • “There is some evidence for prolongation of lifespan in self-selected runners.” Canadian Family Physician 2009;55:871-878.

3) 2006 – This was another review study, done solely on long-distance running.  They found it does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people and “that this activity might even have a protective effect”.  They went on to tout the other benefits of running by citing other research findings: “Running has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and depression. This kind of physical activity has also been shown to help with weight control, to improve bone density, and to decrease mortality.Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 2006;106:342-345