Traditionally, a lifetime of running was thought to increase the chance of developing osteoarthritis later in life. A new study has found the contrary, however, and puts forth that a frequent running schedule may actually help protect against osteoarthritis. Remember, osteoarthritis is the slow progressive deterioration of the joint surface and surrounding structures and can affect many joints, most typically the knee, hip, shoulder and spine.

This landmark study by Hsiao-Wei Lo M.D. and colleagues involved over 2600 people with an average age of 65 with BMI’s on average of 28.6. Each participant had X-rays of the knees and completed questionnaires about their activity level. After 2 years, the same assessment was performed.

Results were enlightening: Those who ran regularly regardless of age had a lower frequency of knee pain, as well as lower incidence of osteoarthritis on X-ray and lower rate of symptomatic osteoarthritis. Also, people with a lower BMI tended to run more regularly. Their results suggest running does not raise the risk of knee osteoarthritis in the general population, and may protect against it. They also point out it did not comment if running was detrimental to people who already had osteoarthritis.

These findings are supported by another article published 2013 and cited on that developing knee arthritis is not affected by up to 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Running delays osteoarthritisFor those who enjoy to run, the worry of developing osteoarthritis may not be so certain after all as long as you keep your BMI down in a reasonable range and your X-rays look good.

See Also:

Runner’s Knee
Running decreases incidence of breast cancer
4 Ways to know if you will develop osteoarthritis

If you have questions about osteoarthritis, running, starting a running program or are worried about your knees for the future, please feel free to contact me at Ask Dr. Hacker or through my office.

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Dr. Scott Hacker is a Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon in San Diego, CA, Team Surgeon to the US Olympic Team. He specializes in sports medicine and sports injuries, knee and shoulder surgery.

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American College of Rheumatology news release, accessed 14 November 2014.

Meeting physical activity guidelines and the risk of incident knee osteoarthritis: The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project; K.E Barbour, J.M Hootman, C.G Helmick, L.B Murphy, Kristina A. Theis, T.A Schwartz, W.D Kalsbeek, J.B Renner and J.M Jordan; Arthritis Care & Research online 27 August 2013; DOI: 10.1002/acr.22120; Abstract