Running Might Not Hurt Your Knees [Study]

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Running Might Be Good For Your Knees

If you’re a runner, you’ve probably been upholding the conventional wisdom that even if you wear the best running shoes your athletic passion to go full Usain Bolt comes with a price — mangled knees. Maybe not, says a new study out of Brigham Young University.

“It flies in the face of intuition,” said study co-author Matt Seeley, an associate 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.”

The BYU physiology research team, led by professors Seely and Robert Hyldahl, analyzed extracted joint fluid from the knee joints of several volunteers, aged 18-35, before and after they were subjected to a 30-minute run. The team was looking specifically for two specific chemical markers, called GM-CSF and Interleukin-15, that mediate inflammatory activity within the joint. The team was astonished to find that these markers actually decreased after running, instead of rising as expected. In comparative trials of the effect of non-running exercises, these same markers remained unchanged. As told to HealthDay:

The indications from the running study suggest that distance running — think Forrest Gump — may actually be chondroprotective or cartilage-sparing, rather than chronically destructive. A significant chunk of the country’s population suffers from osteoarthritis, a joint condition marked by cartilage degeneration, swelling, joint dysfunction, and above all, pain. Where doctors would previously have advised against running on arthritic joints, they may now actually be able to add running to the menu of treatment options available to their patients. For healthy individuals with normal joint function, running may delay the development of osteoarthritis.

Encouraged by these results, some of the research team are planning to expand on the running-as-medicine approach to assess its potential impact on previous traumatic knee injuries, specifically those of the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.