So is running actually good for your knees?

by | Aug 18, 2020 | Fitness & Exercise, Running, Sport

August 18, 2020

Yes!

But I’ll start by hitting you with three facts.

  1. People who run have a lower incidence of knee osteoarthritis than people who don’t (Timmins et al, 2017; Alentorn-Geli, E. 2017).
  2. The knee is the most common site of injury in runners (Van Gent et al, 2007).
  3. The most common cause for running injury is training error (Damstead et al, 2018).

This is how I reconcile these facts in my head.

Running, when appropriately ‘dosed’ is a good thing for our knees (and muscles, tendons, bones, heart, lungs, brain, gut etc etc). However when the dose is too great either acutely or chronically the most likely point in our body to ‘fail’ is our knees. If this is the case, it is not running that is bad for the knees, it is bad coaching, or no coaching that is actually bad for our knees.

Let me reiterate point 1 in case you glossed over it. People who run are less likely to end up with OA than those who don’t. And it isn’t a small difference. Runners are about 3x less likely than non-runners to develop OA. Check my first reference if you don’t believe me.

For many reasons, running is something that you should do, but you should do it in a quantity and frequency that is appropriate for you.

An an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, it is my absolute bread and butter to assess and prescribe the right ‘dose’ of running for you right now, and help you build upon that at your speed.

Please don’t avoid running because you think it is bad for you. And don’t let poor coaching be the reason that it is.

Alentorn-Geli, E., Samuelsson, K., Musahl, V., Green, C. L., Bhandari, M., & Karlsson, J. (2017). The association of recreational and competitive running with hip and knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 47(6), 373-390.

Damsted, C., Glad, S., Nielsen, R. O., Sørensen, H., & Malisoux, L. (2018). Is there evidence for an association between changes in training load and running-related injuries? A systematic review. International journal of sports physical therapy, 13(6), 931.

Timmins, K. A., Leech, R. D., Batt, M. E., & Edwards, K. L. (2017). Running and knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American journal of sports medicine, 45(6), 1447-1457.

Van Gent, R. N., Siem, D., van Middelkoop, M., Van Os, A. G., Bierma-Zeinstra, S. M. A., & Koes, B. W. (2007). Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British journal of sports medicine, 41(8), 469-480.

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