Save the knees

Canadian Running - - Body Work -

Right up there with “Run, For­rest, run!” among the things run­ners love to hear is, “Aren’t you wor­ried you’re go­ing to wear your knees out?” In truth, the evidence from nu­mer­ous stud­ies over many decades strongly sug­gests that reg­u­lar run­ners are less likely to de­velop os­teoarthri­tis in their knees than non­run­ners – a find­ing that still raises skep­ti­cal eye­brows. How is it pos­si­ble that run­ning doesn’t ruin your knees?

One ob­vi­ous con­trib­u­tor is that run­ning keeps your weight lower, which re­duces the load car­ried by your joints. It’s also a non-con­tact ac­tiv­ity where acute knee in­juries like acl tears, which re­ally do raise the risk of sub­se­quent os­teoarthri­tis, are rare. But a third, more sub­tle pos­si­bil­ity is that aer­o­bic exercise has anti-inf lam­ma­tory ef­fects through­out the body, in­clud­ing in the joints, which slows the pro­gres­sion of con­di­tions like os­teoarthri­tis.

That’s the the­ory that re­searchers at Brigham Young Univer­sity tested in a re­cent study in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy. They tried to ex­tract syn­ovial f luid, which is the joint’s lu­bri­cant, from the knees of healthy run­ners be­fore and af­ter a 30-minute run. The prob­lem is that healthy knees have very lit­tle syn­ovial f luid, so the re­searchers were only able to get enough pre- and post-run f luid from six of their 15 sub­jects. That means the re­sults don’t re­ally tell us much, though there were some promis­ing hints that mark­ers of inf lam­ma­tion and car­ti­lage turnover may have been af­fected by the run. For now, file this un­der “in­ter­est­ing but un­con­firmed ideas” – and keep run­ning.

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