I remember a physiotherapist that used to treat me in my 20s advising me against running – especially on hard surfaces. Like concrete. It’s not good for knees, she believed.

But science has advanced since and is refuting such opinions.

A study published this week in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy® (JOSPT®) states that recreational runners have much lower chances of developing osteoarthritis than couch potatoes (aka sedentary individuals).

The international research team comprising experts from Spain, Sweden and the USA, reviewed multiple earlier studies dealing with the matter and found that while only 3.5 per cent of recreational runners develop hip or/and knee osteoarthritis, the incidence of the disease among non-runners is almost three times higher – 10.2 per cent.

Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone. It usually manifests as joint pain and stiffness. Previously, it was thought that the cartilage is mechanically destroyed over time, which would mean that too much exercise involving impacts on the joints increases the probability of the condition. But multiple studies have shown lately that quite on the contrary, exercise involving impacts stimulates the body to strengthen bones and cartilages. (Here is my earlier article about the effect of exercise and dietary collagen on joint health).

The latest study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy® (JOSPT®) came with an interesting conclusion. While running defined as recreational is good, too much of the good thing becomes a bad thing.

The researchers defined recreational runners as those who run up to 92km in a week. That’s still more than 10km in a day, which in my books is quite intense. These people were reaping the benefits. However, in those running more than 92km in a week, opposite effects could have been observed. Among competitive runners involved in the study, 13.3 per cent developed osteoarthritis.

“The principal finding in this study is that, in general, running is not associated with osteoarthritis,” says Spanish physician Eduard Alentorn-Geli, lead author of the study. “The novel finding in our investigation is the increased association between running and arthritis in competitive, but not in recreational, runners.”

The researchers reviewed 17 studies involving a total of 114,829 people.

The individuals involved in the study were running for up to 15 years.

 

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