There has been a long held belief that running is bad for your knees and can make Osteoarthritis (OA) worse. However, looking through the research into this area, this is not the case at all.
A recent systematic review (a large study analysing the results of many studies) looked at the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) in a group of 125,000 people. They found that recreational runners are actually much less likely to have OA than non-runners. Only 3.5% of recreational runners had OA compared to 10.2% of recreational runners.
However, when looking at elite runners they found that they were more likely to have OA. Elite runners were defined as running 57+ miles a week or pro-athletes or Olympians.
One of the major risk factors for OA was found to be the volume of running. If you run 13-26 miles a week there is no increased risk of OA, however if you run 57+ miles a week the risk increases.
What about marathon runners? Marathon runners who have been running on average 19 years and had ran 76 marathons were less than half as likely as to have OA than age-matched non-runners! (8.8% v 17.9%).
What if you have OA? Not to worry, in people over the age of 50 who already had OA, running did not make the OA worse. In some cases, it actually improved the associated pain!
So what’s the bottom line? It’s about finding a healthy balance – not too much or not too little. Or in other words, the Goldilock’s point. Whether you have OA or are looking to start up running you have no reason to fear running unless you go at it like an Olympian!