Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why Runners Don't Get Knee Arthritis

This was the title of the latest article from the New York Times I've seen helping to rid non-runners of the myth that running ruins your knees.  Read the article HERE

Ok, you've read it.  Now what are your thoughts? 

I think the article and attached study do a good job of showing that running does not increase or maintain your risk of osteoarthritis (OA) and hip replacement, a very commonly held myth.  My only qualm is that they state that non-running activities universally increase OA and hip replacement, but do not list what those activities are.  I think there is a lot of variability amongst sports and activities.  They study also shows that walking and running are virtually indistinguishable in their reduced risk and that it is more the effort level you put in during either exercise that counts.  I am also surprised at how low of a level the effort has to be to see such changes in risk.  We are increasing your metabolism less than 2 times what it is at complete rest.  That is a great piece of evidence for those who detest heavy exercise.  That also means that those crazies at the gym aren't doing their knees and hips any more good than the lady walking at an incline.   Haha  I can hear my clients screaming at me now!


For a bit more insight, here are some quick bits from the article and study that stuck out at me.

It turned out, to no one’s surprise, that running produced pounding. In general, the volunteers hit the ground with about eight times their body weight while running, which was about three times as much force as during walking.

Eight times our body weight?!  That's over 1300 pounds of pressure on my knees. 

The net result of these differences, the researchers found, was that the amount of force moving through a volunteer’s knees over any given distance was equivalent, whether they ran or walked.

The overall total is the same, yes, but that does not account for the increased max pressure of running.  Some people, we must assume, cannot exceed a certain amount of pressure without incurring issues.  

Measured over a particular distance, “running and walking are essentially indistinguishable,” in terms of the wear and tear they may inflict on knees.

See above comment.

“There’s some evidence” from earlier studies “that cartilage likes cyclical loading,” he said, meaning activity in which force is applied to the joint, removed and then applied again. In animal studies, such cyclical loading prompts cartilage cells to divide and replenish the tissue, he said, while noncyclical loading, or the continued application of force, with little on-and-off pulsation, can overload the cartilage, and cause more cells to die than are replaced.

This means that people with jobs where you stand around all day are doing damage to your cartilage.  I've got to remember to do more jumping around at work!!

The following quotes come from THIS article mentioned in the above referenced article. 

The risk for OA [Osteoarthritis] also increased with years of education and intake of red meat, but not fruit, alcohol intake, or smoking.   

Interesting!!  I wonder if the education factor coincides with more stationary work movements (i.e. sitting at a desk).  Red meat is very interesting!  Good thing I turned vegetarian.  

Running history (years run) appears to increase the risk for hip replacement but not OA [Osteoarthritis].  

So we want to be runners, but not for too long??  This fact somewhat sticks out in the paper as something that needs further probing.  If running is good for your knees, then is this simply the idea that there truly can be "Too much of a good thing"?  Or does this start to include other factors that we're not accounting for?  

The decrease in risk... was not significantly different for running versus walking for either OA [osteoarthritis] or hip replacement. 

So you can walk or run and there is no significant different in your reduced risk of OA or hip replacement.  That's good news for a lot of people.  Walking is much more common than running as you age. 


1.  As an athlete, where do you fall on the belief of exercise's affect on osteoarthritis, hip replacement, and other bodily ailments?
I've believed for a long time that distance running helps your joints barring any stupid move (aka, running through injury).  I also believe that lateral movements (basketball, tennis, football) are going to wreck havoc on your joints over time!

2.  Do you have any good articles or tid bits for either side of the argument?

3.  What do you have coming up this weekend??  
I will be running and watching Ironman Kona, so I need to live through your adventures!


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