Does Running Cause Arthritis?

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It is a popular belief that the wear and tear of running spurs osteoarthritis of the knees and other joints. But, is this notion true?

Not according to exercise scientist Paul Williams, who says studies show quite the opposite. Williams heads the National Runner’s Health Study as well as the National Walkers’ Health Study. These projects have followed close to 90,000 runners and walkers since their inception in 1991 and 1997, respectively. An analysis of these studies was recently published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Williams studied the rates of osteoarthritis and hip replacements of the participants and found that runners were only half as likely to develop osteoarthritis or need a hip replacement as walkers. In addition, those in the study who ran the most had the lowest risk of osteoarthritis.

Running actually strengthens joints and is associated with a lower BMI (body mass index), keeping you stronger and healthier. On the other hand, one point of caution is in order.  These findings do not mean that people with arthritis should take up running. Running with pre-existing arthritis can actually worsen symptoms. Exercise is an important part of treating osteoarthritis but that exercise must be professionally prescribed to be safe and effective.

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