Adam Cohen and Dr. Rod McEver
I can’t tell you how many times someone has changed the following statement to me: “Running will damage your knees.”
But I’ve been a (fairly) dedicated athlete for 35 years, and, knocking on wood, with the exception of a few minor speed bumps over the years, my knees seem fine. Am I just lucky?
Dr. McEver prescribes
Of course, running isn’t for everyone. And I write this as someone who used to run a marathon and now prefers to walk.
While running, with its constant pounding, it seems ready to destroy cartilage in the knee, a study conducted by Stanford University showed the opposite. Led by Dr. Eliza Chakravarty, who later joined the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation as a rheumatologist, the scientists conducted an 18-year study comparing the extent of degeneration knee osteoarthritis in a group of nearly 100 runners and non-runners with an average age of 58 at the beginning of the study.
The researchers took X-rays of the subjects’ knees regularly throughout the study and found that, even when they entered their mid-70s, the runners had no increased incidence of inflammatory disease. higher joint rates as well as no greater incidence of severe arthritis. In fact, in both categories, as they got older, the runners scored slightly higher than the non-runners.
These findings are supported by a more recent analysis of 43 MRI studies that found no evidence running caused short- or long-term damage to the knee cartilage.
While researchers continue to understand why this is so, the most popular theory is that regular, weight-bearing exercise like jogging can help cartilage grow. Indeed, one small study found that non-runners who participated in a 10-week running program saw improvements in strength metrics and cartilage quality.
For those who don’t or can’t run, a new walking study offers hope. Scientists found that of more than 1,000 people aged 50 and older with knee osteoarthritis in their knees, those who exercised walk had the least amount of knee pain.
Regular, weight-bearing exercise seems to keep the knees healthy as we age. So don’t listen to the naysayers; constantly on the move!
McEver, a physician and scientist, is vice president of research for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Cohen is a marathon runner and OMRF senior vice president and general counsel. Send them your health questions to email@example.com.