Running & Its Effects


Running is a tough job, it doesn’t matter if you are a newbie preparing for your first running competition or a regular seasoned runner, for whom walking 10 miles each day is a ritual before the breakfast.  The linkage of running and knee related medical issues is so strong that in medical world, the most common knee syndrome PFPS (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is generally known as a runner’s knee. Perhaps, it makes sense because running and knee issues goes side by side.


If you are wondering why, it is because the running is the most extensive form of physical activity where joints bear all the pressure. Therefore, for runners the chances of joint injuries and even develop arthritis is higher than other exercises or physical routine.


According to research conducted in 2013, with more than 75,000 runners, it was published that contrary to the general belief, it was found that runners do not develop osteoarthritis more often than other people. In another research work published same year it was also found that both running and walking cause same amount of stress for the knee joints.


Though the impact of running is higher than walking but in running the frequency of feet striking the round is lower than the walk, hence both are equally stressing.


Another study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology declared that running is more beneficial for good knees. In an experimental study, a group of runners were tested with synovial fluid found in the knee joints.


Measurement of fluid was taken after 30 minutes running and 30 minutes seating sessions, on alternative days. The inflammation markers were higher after seating session as compared to running sessions.


There has been a long held belief that running is bad for your knees and can make Osteoarthritis (OA) worse. However, looking through the research into this area, this is not the case at all.


A recent systematic review (a large study analyzing the results of many studies) looked at the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) in a group of 125,000 people. They found that recreational runners are actually much less likely to have OA than non-runners. Only 3.5% of recreational runners had OA compared to 10.2% of recreational runners.


However, when looking at elite runners they found that they were more likely to have OA. Elite runners were defined as running 57+ miles a week or pro-athletes or Olympians.


One of the major risk factors for OA was found to be the volume of running. If you run 13-26 miles a week there is no increased risk of OA, however if you run 57+ miles a week the risk increases. 


What about marathon runners? Marathon runners who have been running on average 19 years and had ran 76 marathons were less than half as likely as to have OA than age-matched non-runners! (8.8% v 17.9%). 

What if you have OA? Not to worry, in people over the age of 50 who already had OA, running did not make the OA worse. In some cases, it actually improved the associated pain!

So what’s the bottom line? It’s about finding a healthy balance – not too much or not too little. Or in other words, the Goldilock’s point. Whether you have OA or are looking to start up running you have no reason to fear running unless you go at it like an Olympian!