Is Running Bad for Your Knees?
Does running actually create problems in otherwise healthy knees? You may have heard stories of knee damage blamed on running or used as a reason not to run. However, if you have no pre-existing knee problems you can lace up and hit the treadmill or trails without worry. The long-standing idea that running is bad for healthy knees is now known to be a misunderstanding.
The overall impact on your knees is similar whether you run or walk. There is an eightfold increase in pressure on your joints while you are running, but your stride is longer so your feet meet the ground less often. Those who have pre-existing knee issues should stop running if they are bothered by that higher per-step pressure, but if you have no knee pain when you run you can continue without worry: The overall impact to your knees is the same whether you run with high impact for fewer steps or walk more steps with a softer landing.
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a condition involving the gradual reduction of knee joint cartilage eventually resulting in bone-on-bone contact, bone spurs and pain. Risk factors include genetics, aging and excess body weight. Studies examining the prevalence of osteoarthritis in runners have found that runners are less likely to develop the condition than walkers, and the risk decreases proportionately as more regular mileage is logged. Potential reasons for this include the body weight reduction that often accompanies regular running, as well as increased circulation that nourishes joint cartilage.
Knees do not work alone: They are dependent on your overall fitness to remain injury-free. Strong hips and gluts create leg stability which protects your knees from injury. Strong quadriceps enable your knee caps to track optimally, and hamstrings that are not too tight can redirect some of the impact away from your knees as you run. Incorporate a proper stretching routine and strength training program into your fitness plan to safeguard your knees from injury or wear and tear.
If your knees are healthy and your overall bio-mechanics are stable, running can actually maintain and extend your knee health rather than being detrimental. Consult your doctor if you have any concerns. Once you're medically cleared to run, seek the advice of a trainer who can help you with running form and training schedule to ensure that the demands you place on your body do not out-pace your increasing level of fitness. Most importantly relax, have fun and feel heartened by the fact that running is a gift to your health and well-being.
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