As a PT who’s worked with quite a few runners over the years, I’ve often been asked this question by patients and clients who enjoy running or are interested in adding running to their fitness program. Personally, as an off-and-on runner myself, I’ve often thought about this question as I’ve slogged through those last few miles, wondering if I may be doing more long-term harm to my body than good. Fortunately, based on new research, we finally have at least part of the answer based on some solid evidence!
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the June, 2017 issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT, 2017;47(6):373-390.), examined the association of hip and knee osteoarthritis (OA) with running, and the results were very interesting.
All in all, 25 studies were included in the systematic review, and 17 of those were meta-analyzed, bringing the total number of individuals in the study to over 125,000. The study found that only 3.5% of recreational runners (those runners with less than 15 years of exposure to running) had hip or knee OA. In contrast, 10.2% of individuals who did not run or were sedentary had hip or knee OA. In addition, elite or professional runners (those with high-volume and high-intensity trainin and averaged more than 57 miles/week) had the highest rate of hip and knee OA (13.3%). The study did not address the impact of obesity, occupational workload, or prior injury on the future risk of hip or knee OA in runners.
However, for those of us who consider ourselves recreational runners and enjoy running for fun, fitness, and the plethora of other health benefits, we should be encouraged by the findings that suggest that running at a recreational level for many years (up to 15 years and possibly more) is associated with significantly lower odds of hip and knee OA compared with sedentary individuals and competitive runners (those with greater than 15 years of running exposure at high-volume and high-intensity). Based on the results of this study, the authors concluded that “running at a recreational level can be safely recommended as a general health exercise, with the evidence suggesting that it has benefits for hip and knee joint health. The amount of running that is safe for the joints could not be determined.”
Taken with the many other benefits of running, such as helping with weight loss or management, lowering cholesterol levels, boosting the immune system, improving mood, and reducing stress, this study provides even more evidence that running at a recreational level can be a safe and effective addition to a healthy lifestyle. So now that summer’s officially here and the mornings and evenings are perfect for getting outside, you can feel good about dusting off the running shoes and starting to train for that mid-summer 5K you’ve been thinking about!
Interested in starting a running program? We have good news! Elite be partnering with Marathon Sports for an on-site running gait analysis program to help ensure that you’re in the best shoe possible for your foot type and gait pattern. Stay tuned for more details on dates and times!
Already a runner and interested in a really fun race? Elite is sponsoring this year’s Naragansett Running Festival, hosted at Stonehill College on July 15-16. We’d love to see you there!