If you don't already have knee osteoarthritis and you like to run, have no fear. A new report claims that not only does habitual running not cause knee osteoarthritis, it may even help prevent it.

Running doesn't seem to cause knee osteoarthritis—and in fact may help prevent it. What Is Knee Osteoarthritis?

In the past, experts cautioned that running caused knee pain or deterioration because of the repetitive pressure it puts on the joint. Some past research seemed to back this up. However, previous studies of runners involved male professional runners, so the results may not apply to the average recreational runner.

That was not the case with a new report presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting. Researchers followed nearly 2,700 people for two years, assessing their knees with X-rays and surveying them about knee pain and how often they ran.1

After two years, those who ran regularly had less knee pain or evidence of joint degeneration than the non-runners. Researchers also noted that those with the lowest body mass index (BMI) were likeliest to be frequent runners. This may help explain some of the connection, as extra weight is one of the greatest risk factors for osteoarthritis of the knee.


Advice for those who already have knee osteoarthritis

Although the report offers encouragement for runners with healthy knees, the authors caution that running's effects on those who already have knee osteoarthritis are unknown.

Running may not be advisable for those with knee arthritis, but other forms of exercise certainly are. Good exercise options for those with osteoarthritis in their knee or lower body include:

  • Swimming, water aerobics, or water therapy
  • Walking (try adding trekking poles for added stability and less stress on weight-bearing joints)
  • Weight/resistance training

For more exercise tips, see Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis.

It's also important to work with a physical therapist to learn knee stretching and strengthening exercises. These can help maintain range of motion and slow degeneration of the knee.

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  1. "Running Does Not Lead to Knee Osteoarthritis and May Protect People From Developing the Disease." American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting. November 11, 2014.