Does Running Increase Your Risk of Arthritis?
Updated: Sep 3
There are many different types of runners out there. Whether they are recreational runners or competitive runners, their thoughts are similar–that exercise is medicine and running is therapy. The benefits of running far outweigh the risks in terms of improving our overall health, especially for our heart, lungs, bones, muscles, and brain. Running can help to reduce stress, lower cholesterol levels, aid in weight loss, boost the immune system, and improve your mood. So what’s the issue, since millions of people worldwide exercise by running?
The issue is that some individuals are worried about the impact of running in regards to long term joint health. So the question becomes does running lead to higher rates of arthritis in the hips and knees? There are numerous studies that have determined that running protects bone health. However, there are others who are concerned that this type of exercise poses a high risk for age-related changes to knees and hips. A brand new study published in the June 2017 Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy states that the difference in these outcomes depends on the intensity and frequency of running.
25 research studies were reviewed that included 125,810 people, and these studies were narrowed down to 17 studies with a total of 114,829 individuals. Here’s what the researchers found:
Only 3.5% of recreational runners had hip or knee arthritis–this was true for both male and female runners.
Interestingly, individuals in the studies who were sedentary and did not run had a higher rate (10.2%) of hip or knee arthritis.
The group that showed the highest rate of hip and knee arthritis were runners who were at the elite, ex-elite, or professional level (13.3%). These were professional or elite athletes or individuals who participated in international competition.
The current study did not look at the impact that obesity, occupational workload, or prior injury had on the future risk of hip and knee arthritis in runners.
Recreational runners had the least chance of developing hip and knee arthritis compared to non runners/sedentary individuals and competitive runners. Even if you ran recreationally for many years–up to 15 years and possibly longer–the researchers concluded that this could be safely recommended as a general health exercise, benefiting hip and knee joint health. Their findings also suggest that remaining sedentary and not exercising increases your risk of hip and knee arthritis, compared with regular recreational running.
However, high-intensity and high-volume training also may increase your risk for arthritis. Other researchers who linked high-intensity and high-volume runners with hip and knee arthritis defined high-volume running as running more than 57 miles (92km) per week.
The bottom line is that the benefits of running are numerous and far outweigh the risks, especially if you are a recreational runner. You can be confident that recreational running will not harm, and may actually improve, your hip or knee joint health.
Whether you or someone you know is a seasoned runner or just getting ready to start a running program and have questions, or if you or someone you know is having pain with running, don’t wait to take action. Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!