This just in: Running does not damage your knees. Despite what scientists have told us for decades, better scientists have now proven that running does not deliver us mercilessly into the swollen knuckled grip of osteoarthritis, hip replacement surgery or inflammatory everything. Phew!
For runners the sense of relief must be equivalent to a young Aztec woman on a Solstice morning having heard the chief observe that Solstices still happen no matter how many virgins they sacrifice, and it’s best to cancel the throw the virgins down the pyramid event. Runner’s relief is probably not just like that, but I’m almost that relieved – and a little miffed, truth be told.
In a 7 year study involving 90,000 runners and walkers, scientists conclude that running actually lowered the incidence of osteoarthritis and hip replacements compared to non-runners. The subjects who ran longer distances had an even lower risk of arthritis and hip replacements.
It should be noted that the research subjects were runners with no pre-existing knee injuries.
Scientists offer two reasons why running is a friend of the knee.
1. Runners maintain a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Extra weight on a joint that is already weight-bearing gives the knee little option than to grind away the cartilage.
2. Running actually preserves cartilage thickness compared to non-exercisers who show thinning as they age.
Scientists also found that exercises which requires deep bending or a change in direction while running very fast increased one’s chance of succumbing to osteoarthritis. Weight-lifters had a more than 30 percent chance of ruining their knees, and soccer players were at 20 percent.
Is there a lesson to learn here?
For 20 years I have been waiting for my knees to solder shut. I took up running against the best judgement of sport scientists; now running is probably the reason why my knees are so healthy. I throw my arms up in the air, a little, politely.
What I take from this is that there is always a place for intuition. If I practice heavy squats at the gym every week, it won’t be difficult to intuit that the knees will not put up with the pressure forever.
Knees Love Cross-Training
My iliotibial band on the outside of my thigh will tighten if all I do is run. I practice yoga on alternate days. It weaves space into uptight fascia like nothing else, my knees feel like fish knees by the end of practice. You heard me.
Are you a runner with fabulous knees? Do you run a beautiful route? Tell me about it.
See the study. Here it is.