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Jogging May Not Cause Arthritis

Adults Might Just Keep Running

Jogging May Not Cause Arthritis

By Sean Zucker –

Despite the clear health advantages, there is a lingering belief that long-distance running will wreak havoc on knees later in life. The implication stems from fears that this type of exercise involves too much force on joints and cartilage, causing them to deteriorate. Several studies, however, disputed these claims—or in fact any connection between jogging and osteoarthritis, the condition most often associated with knee joint and cartilage corrosion.

If anything, some suggest that long-distance running might lower this risk.

In 2017, the Osteoarthritis Initiative, for example, examined the relationship between knee pain and osteoarthritis, referring to it as OA. The over 2,600 participants were subject to knee radiograph readings, symptom assessments and physical activity surveys to determine any connection. Roughly 55 percent were female and 45 percent were male, each with an average age of just over 64. Nearly 30 percent of those involved noted running at some point in their lives. After combing through all the surveyed data, the researchers found no link between those who ran and those who developed osteoarthritis.

“There is no increased risk of symptomatic knee OA among self-selected runners compared with nonrunners in a cohort recruited from the community. In those without OA, running does not appear to be detrimental to the knees,” the study concluded.

More recently, researchers at Northwestern University specifically targeted long-distance runners to put these claims to bed. The team surveyed over 38,000 participants running the Chicago Marathon. The median age of respondents was about 43.9 while each had completed, on average, almost ten marathons during their lives. Runners were surveyed on hip and knee pain, osteoarthritis, family history and surgical history. They were also asked about their running history including the number of marathons completed, years of running, average pace and weekly mileage.

Ultimately, only seven percent of those surveyed had arthritis in the hips or knees. For these folks, the researchers concluded that the only consequential trends were a history of hip or knee injuries, older age, family history and higher body mass index. Conversely, the number of years running, number of marathons completed, weekly mileage and running pace were found to have no noticeable impact on the risk for arthritis. Still, over 94 percent of all involved reported that they were already planning to run another marathon with nearly a quarter adding that it was against their doctor’s advice.

“Despite growing knowledge that running and being active can be healthy for your joints, there is a continued dogma among the healthcare community that patients should stop running to avoid wearing out their cartilage,” said Dr. Matthew J. Hartwell, the study’s lead author. “In fact, our survey showed that one in four people have received a recommendation by their physician to reduce their running volume and for those with arthritis, nearly 50 percent of runners were told by their physicians to stop running altogether.”

Arthritis is undeniably widespread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in fact, reports that over 25 percent of U.S. adults above the age of 45 have received an arthritis diagnosis. This implies that, per Hartwell’s findings, running might actually lower the chances of developing the condition.

Other members of the Northwestern team hope that their findings will help influence medical professionals to avoid persuading runners out of potential training. Of course, it appears unlikely dedicated runners are going to stop anyway, so it seems important to accurately assess the legitimate risk factors for osteoarthritis.

“Recreational runners are a dedicated group of people who use the sport for exercise, mental clarity or to challenge themselves,” noted Dr. Vehniah K. Tjong, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Northwestern. “Our hope is these findings educate physicians so they don’t instinctively advise against running and they work to meet patients on their level—because, as these data show, runners are likely to continue running despite medical advice.”





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