Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 - 9:50 am

Fit Tip

Distance running and arthritis-related knee injuries


John Bobalik is an exercise physiologist and coordinator of the Purdue University Calumet Fitness Center, a comprehensive, campus exercise facility for students, faculty, staff and community members.

Fit Tip Dude Exercising

Q. Will too much distance running cause cartilage in knees to wear out and contribute to development of osteoarthritis or arthritis in the knee joints?

A. Such factors as aging, weight gain, traumatic knee injuries, and strength training involving frequent kneeling and squatting and repeated full squats with a barbell using excessively heavy weights can increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

However, medical and scientific research literature does not support the notion that distance running increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee.

According to Dr. David C. Niemen, P.H., FACSM, professor and director at the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State (N.C.) University, “The knee joint is well equipped to handle the demands of distance running, and your odds of getting osteoarthritis of the knee are no greater than for a non-runner of the same age, especially if you are lean and have no history of injury to the knee.”

Nieman added, “The cartilage in the knee adapts to the stress of running just like other body tissues such as bone and muscle. For example, a 2-year study of older adults with no personal history of knee injury or disease showed that participation in vigorous, weight-bearing activities like running significantly countered the loss of cartilage compared with the inactive control group.”

Continuing, Niemen said, “In 2008 an expert panel convened by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services submitted a consensus statement on the relationship between physical activity, health and disease prevention, including osteoarthritis. According to the committee, in the absence of major knee joint injury, no evidence exists to indicate that regular moderate to vigorous physical activity like running in the amounts that are commonly recommended for health and fitness benefits increase the risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee.”

  1. Nieman, David C., You Ask For It – Health and Fitness Column, American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, November/December, Volume 14, Number 6, p. 5 – 7.

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