Dear Doctor: I recently added running to my weight-loss program. Not only do I feel better, but the pounds are also coming off faster. However, I keep reading that running is bad for my knees, so it makes me wonder – am I making a mistake?
Dear Reader: We’re happy to reassure you that running, when done properly, is not bad for your knees. In fact, a number of recent studies suggest the opposite is true.
In addition to a lowered risk of stroke and heart attack, runners in the studies had lower rates of osteoarthritis than the non-runners did. And thanks to the runners’general level of fitness, their chosen form of exercise was seen as beneficial to maintain joint health.
The idea that running is bad for your knees is one of those myths that just won’t go away. But numerous studies conducted over the last decade have repeatedly shown that’s not so.
Researchers found no correlation between running and osteoarthritis, also known as OA. Sure, a percentage of the participants in the long-term studies did develop OA. However, when scientists looked closely, it turned out that running was not a risk factor. Instead, obesity, family history, advanced age, and previous muscle or joint injury proved to be the real predictors of future osteoarthritis.
In fact, it turns out that people who exercise get extra protection against OA. As we mentioned earlier, runners’ muscles are more toned and therefore reduce the pressure the joints are asked to bear.
Before you race out the door, though, there are caveats. If you have injured yourself in the past, whether a muscle, cartilage or ligament, you may indeed be at risk of further damage. But if you’re a healthy individual without a history of injury, running is a good way to boost your weight loss – and, as you also noticed, your mood.
If you’re over 40 years old or more than 20 pounds overweight, it’s probably wise to talk to your primary care physician about your plan to run regularly.
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