One of the easiest ways to get your heart rate up and get your body moving is to go for a run. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes and you can go anywhere you’d like. Many healthy adults who are interested in staying in shape spend time running as a main form of exercise.
And it’s true, running is very good for your overall health. Cardio strengthens your heart, naturally boosts energy, improves lung capacity, and helps you get to sleep at night. Our bodies were designed to move and cardio is generally our go-to for weight loss and health goals.
However, there have been concerns raised about whether or not running is particularly harmful to your joint health. Can a daily run leave long-term effects on your joints and connective cartilage?
Running is essentially a high-impact activity. This means it’s going to have some wear and tear on your body. As with any exercise, if done incorrectly, it can cause damage to the area being worked. So if you’ve heard of “runner’s knee” and the discomfort that comes with it, it could be referring to running with incorrect form.
Technique is extremely important in any form of physical activity, not just sports. When your foot comes up off the ground and lands back down with force, there is a need for the technique to be correct so your cartilage around the knee does its job to absorb the shock. When done incorrectly, the blow to your knee may be less cushioned and more extreme.
However, there is also evidence that running can actually build strength in the cartilage connecting your joints. Some studies have shown that recreational runners actually have a lower risk of developing knee and cartilage problems.
So how do we get at the truth behind whether or not running hurts your knees? This article will explain the reasons behind why running is actually NOT detrimental to your joint and knee health and where the myth behind “runner’s knee” actually comes from.
The short answer is, no. Running can actually help strengthen your knees and give you the ability to work through any discomfort your may be experiencing in that area. There have been a number of studies that we can break down for you here to back this up.
For example, one study evaluated the association between leisurely running and frequent knee discomfort through the use of knee radiograph readings. Of the participants, some were shown to already have symptoms of knee degradation, while the others were healthy.
The participants were split into groups of those who run frequently and those who run less frequently. By the end of the cross-sectional study, results showed that running neither increased the risk of any further damage to already damaged knees and did not cause harm to those without any damage to begin with. You can read more about this study here.
Because running is a more high-impact sport than, say, walking, it does affect your knees in some ways. With that, the more you continue to run the more likely it is that you will strengthen the cartilage in your knees causing a lower risk of any major knee health concern.
In other words, yes, running is going to cause more wear and tear than walking or some form of lower impact activity, but lower impact activity will not build up cartilage to stave off future knee issues in the same way.
If you are an avid runner, chances are you will experience some discomfort from time to time. This has come to be known as “runner’s knee”in athletic communities. Where the myth part comes in is that it’s actually not a mobility-ending issue.
In fact, the best thing you can do for “runner’s knee” is to keep running! Continuing to run, maybe with less impact (so, a jog) can actually be more beneficial than staying off your knee altogether.
Have you ever been in a really healthy habit of running daily and then had to stop for a week or so? It’s pretty hard to get back into it no matter how excited you are about getting started. Your body adjusts pretty quickly to change and gets used to what you allow it to do.
It may seem obvious to take time off running or sports if you're physically feeling unwell or have experienced injuries. And while this is mostly dependent on the injury at large, continuing to move with less intensity may be the way to go. Sometimes even after a break "runner's knee" can come back.
Of course, if you're experiencing any kind of severe discomfort, it's always best to get medical advice from your physician or physical therapist before making any extreme changes to your regular activity.
Another thing you may find interesting is that the physical discomfort you may be experiencing in your knee actually comes more from the fatty pad part rather than the bones and ligaments beneath. This area is called the joint capsule and can cause more harm than cartilage.
After all, exercise such as running is building strength in cartilage to provide that cushioning we need around our joints to live an active life.
The idea that you need to reach a certain amount of mileage to consider your run worthwhile is simply incorrect. Any time you get out and get running for 10 minutes or more, you are working on your health and your heart.
If you are interested in training for a 5k or setting personal running goals, consider a running program or app. Search for training apps that track how far you run and keep you motivated to reach new personal goals. Start small and build your way up!
Developing a running routine is a simple way to stay physically active, and we now know not to be worried about any future knee health concerns arising. Running combined with light weight lifting, stretching, and meditation is a great combination for overall wellness.
If you're looking for a holistic approach to healthier joints and increased mobility there are a number of them out there on the market.
Turmeric is your go-to superfood for increasing your antioxidant intake which in turn will help increase your inflammatory response. If you are looking for a supplement to help with joint issues, find a complex that features turmeric.
Any form of collagen is also a good idea for joint health. Collagen makes up our ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues. As we age, the collagen we naturally produce in our bodies declines.
Runners with bad knees tend to notice the discomfort later in life not because of the years of running, but more so because of the decreasing levels of collagen around their joints that is there to help cushion and absorb pressure.
If you're new to holistic supplements, but are looking for a way to stay active, try taking this quiz to find out which supplements are right for you.
Again, if you're struggling with a solution for on going knee injuries and discomfort, it's always best to consult your doctor.
The best part about going the holistic route is that there are typically no long term effects because the products are natural and we make most of the necessary proteins in our bodies already. Supplements are there to promote overall wellness by supplementing what our bodies may lack as we live longer.
Overall, if you're already a runner or interested in starting to run (try a 5k!) there is no major connection to long term knee issues and running.
Though any high-impact spot will cause stress on your body in some way or another, running happens to also help build up necessary strength in cartilage around the knee to keep you moving and going strong!
We hope this article was helpful in your pursuit of a new or existing healthy hobby and we encourage you to keep up the good work in your on-going health journey!