If I hear one thing more than anything else from non-runners is how running is going to destroy my knees. Now, I’m not 80 years old, obviously, or I’ve discovered the fountain of youth, you’ll never know but well, I can say is we’re gonna look and see what the research says about running and your knees, is it gonna hurt you in the long term or able to walk when you’re older. What does it actually have to say?
I’m Jesse Funk, if you haven’t been on this channel before, this is a little show I’d like to call Runners High. It’s all about running and the ways you can be a better runner and tidbits like today’s, does running affect your knee?
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So, when I started running and even now, the one thing I heard from (well, affectionately referred to the group as) old people was “I used to run but my knees gave out and I just can’t do it no more”. Do I think we can sympathize to the plight of my imaginary old man? You have to know that this story is so common, I heard it so many times as I just felt like it had to be true.
This idea even persisted into college until time when one of my coaches, Doc, even though he was not MD he was a professor, Doc, before he left us and we changed over staff he made sure to give me and the other runners this article this research article that basically said, running doesn’t only not destroy your knees but it may actually be beneficial for your knees in the long run.
This really counterintuitive thing that goes against all these, again, I say, old people, but these people that haven’t had knee problems and then were runners at some point we have all that anectodal evidence against this kind of scientific research it was kind of hard to figure out what to believe.
Now, you and I both live very different lives. You know, we both run but you know, I have a different genetic makeup than you. We both eat different foods, we have different work schedules. You’re probably not shooting YouTube videos like I am. We all have these different stressors in our lives that lead to incidences of different rates of injury. And the genetic makeup maybe predisposes us to certain issues that other people don’t have or do have or whatever it is.
My point being there’s so many factors, it’s hard to say for sure, it’s like, okay running clearly caused that caricature that old person problems. That’s how they assigned it and they see that causal link. But I’m more inclined to believe the data.
So we’ve had a research study like the one Doc gave me as well as the numerous other studies that have been done that basically say “Well, we look at the correlation between running, knees and old age, runners actually have a lower incidence of knee injuries in old age or incidences of arthritis or osteoarthritis”. So, I think we can say that it’s pretty safe even though causality is not always going to be with correlation there.
We know that it’s likely, there’s a group of runners running probably does not cause those issues, there’s gonna be other things, other factors in your life to make you more pre-expose to have arthritis and those kinds of issues.
One of those factors is maybe possibly Non PC as they say, is body weight, right? I mean we know as runners that our weight has some effect on our performance, right? But it’s not just our performance.
We have to know that our body weight affects the impact that we take when we run and on top of that just when we move around. The heavier we are the more load our joints take. So there’s a possibility because as runners we’re typically a leaner group of people compared to average show that our joints take less pounding, less stress over time. And that maybe one of the reasons that we see some of that correlation of runners having lower incidences of knee injuries.
On top of that, there’s actually some studies and the possibility that running may be beneficial for your knees. Not just not problematic but have a positive impact on your knees. And the thing here is that over time, there’s a certain age we reach where our bone density just starts going down which means that our bones are more fragile which is why it’s easier to kind of joke on break a hip when you get older. But what kind of helps prevent that or keeps bone density higher is stress.
So when you place stress on your body via running then your body adapts and tries to keep that bone density higher so it’s possible although the evidences isn’t super conclusive quite yet it’s possible that if we do run as we get older that that helps our bone density stay higher meaning that we should have even lower incidences of knee issues or other skeletal issues altogether.
On the other hand, there’s no accounting for acute injury. Take my father as an example. He began running in his early 60s as a consequence of me running and he ends up later on his early 70s hurting his knee through an acute injury while he was on a treadmill and he’s really no longer able to run without pain. He refuses to see his doctor. I can’t convince him to do that. And he also didn’t ever have the greatest running form, a really hard heel striker to spike my insistence on trying to get him to work on his running form.
If you have a parent, and I assume that you do because you’re a human you may know that it’s kind of difficult for your parents to do anything even if you have more experience in it than them.
So if there’s an acute injury, it doesn’t really matter whether you are running or not running that something you have to deal with as particular incidences, a particular point in time and sometimes those external factors that should help us or should hurt us really don’t matter anymore because it’s acute it happens in a very short period of time it’s kinda snap kind of injury and that may take us out too but we can’t really worry about that. What we know is, again, looking at the data, running is actually probably positive for us and does not affect our knees negatively.
And as mentioned, it’s possible that you know, running has a positive effect on your knees. So, if you’re worried about, am I going to destroy my knees and if I will be able to walk when I’m older, make sure you’re using good form but then otherwise, don’t worry about it go out and run. If you don’t know about form, other video pop up on the screen here surely I’m giving you example of when I went to the track, kind of demo form and talk about that a little bit. So check that video here a second and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.