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We hear it all the time. We may even say it or believe it ourselves. The myth that running is bad for the knees. But let’s think about that. If running was bad for the knees and caused knee arthritis, why doesn’t everyone who runs have a problem? Why can some people run into their 80s and beyond while others get sidelined at 35? Good genetics? Form? Shoes? Let’s find out.

Moderate physical activity is recommended for people of all ages. It is especially important for people 40 and up for the many health benefits it provides. For people with osteoarthritis (OA), exercise is one of the most recommended treatments. This is because it improves strength, range of motion and can help with weight management.

The Science Behind Running and Knee Arthritis

Studies have looked into running’s impact on healthy knees, but until recently, there wasn’t much data available on how it impacted knees with OA. One such study compared runners to non-runners age 50+ and measured whether over 48 months, running worsened OA symptoms. Compared to non-runners, runners had no significant interactions between running and injury and did not have increased odds for their symptoms worsening. The runners in the group also reported decreased pain symptoms.

There are additional merits that running provides, including improved muscle strength, which may lessen the impact felt by the knee while running. Better proprioception can be better among runners versus non-runners. Understanding where your body is in space can help improve posture, coordination and reduce the risk of a fall.

Given the cardiovascular benefits, understanding running’s impact on OA is an important lesson for those who sideline their running due to concern for worsening their symptoms. If you have knee arthritis and would like to explore running or get back into it, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist for an evaluation to ensure it is safe to run. We appreciate the passion many runners feel and empathize with the feeling of loss when running shoes have to be packed away. So dust off those sneakers and head on in for an evaluation. Let’s see if we can help get you back out there.