It is commonly known that running can leave you sore and swollen. However, a new study suggests running might actually reduce inflammation in joints.
“It flies in the face of intuition,” said study co-author Matt Seeley, an associated professor of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. “This idea that long-distance running is bad for your knees might be a myth.”
Seeley and his colleagues reached their surprising conclusion after analyzing the knee joint fluid of several healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 35. The researchers looked for signs of inflammation in chemical markers before and after a 30-minute run and found little difference.
“What we now know is that for young healthy individuals, exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health,” lead author Robert Hyldahl said in a university news release. Hyldahl is an assistant professor of exercise science at BYU.
The researchers said the study suggests running could actually delay development of degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis.
“This study does not indicate that distance runners are any more likely to get osteoarthritis than any other person,” Seeley said. “Instead, this study suggests exercise can be a type of medicine.”
The study was published recently in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
It will be interesting to see if similar findings are seen in both younger and older populations. My interest in running didn’t begin until I was in my early thirties. I have long believed that my late start has saved my knees as my high school friends that ran track all have bad knees.
There are real concerns that long-distance running during adolescence can damage the growth centers of the long bones, especially those around the knee.
However, when I look at my patient population having knee joint replacement, a vast majority of those are people who have been inactive most if not all of their lives. Certainly lack of physical activity is a bigger issue for osteoarthritis of the knee as we age.
I think if you exclude knee injuries from the equation, then this premise no longer “flies in the face of intuition.” It actually makes good sense.
The long-held belief is that osteoarthritis occurs from constant micro trauma to the boney surface over the course of time and activity. However, a more recent theory is that the micro trauma actually damages the blood supply within the bone rather than the bone surface. It’s the loss of circulation to the bone that ultimately creates the osteoarthritic changes.
Using this theory, the increased circulation to the knee from running would then have an anti-inflammatory effect.
The Bottom Line:
I’m a runner, so I’d like to believe this study. Running is the most effective way to exercise the body and burn calories. However, the potential for injury is real. I subscribe to the “3 S’s” of running – speed, shoe, and surface. The faster you run and the harder the surface, the greater the risk of injury. Spend some money on a pair of good running shoes and replace them after a couple of hundred miles. I do most of my running on the beach, at low tide. I run slow and enjoy the scenery.
Source: January 5, 2016 National Institutes of Health