You'll be hearing me celebrate the return of running season for the next little while. Running is a fantastic exercise and sport, and I'm more than happy when I see both experienced and brand new runners partaking. However, is running a healthy activity?
It has generally been the common consensus that running is bad for your joints, whether it be for your knees, your hips, or back. Thus, it's often the reason (or excuse) for many people to not partake in any running. It makes sense; too much impact on the joints could totally cause some arthritic development or degeneration in the spine. As we understand it, this is basically the definition of how osteoarthritis onsets, right?
The research journal search was actually extremely easy here. As I was able to find out, between both old and new studies, long-term studies, and cross-analyses, running was almost always found to be unrelated to any development of osteoarthritis in the knee, hip, and spine. At the worst, some studies suggested it to be merely inconclusive.
In fact, one brand new piece of research even found that, as far as intervertebral discs go, running actually promoted more strength and better disc health as opposed to contributing to degeneration!
So what's going on? What actually causes arthritis? Well, recent skeletal examinations are now suggesting that osteoarthritis development has more to do with a lack of physical activity rather than too much of any particular type. This was strengthened by the fact that degenerative joints correlate highly with the morbid obesity seen in many modern-day skeletons.
Furthermore, there may even be mechanisms that actually protect runners from degenerative changes from their spot. While the overall impact and force going through the joints is higher during a running gait, there may be some evidence suggesting that the decreased contact time with the ground actually works to counteract any damaging effects.
All this being said, no, running is not the joint-destroying, pain-inducing activity that many out there believe it is, and there's even the possibility of being a runner if you already do have arthritis. Keep in mind, running, like ANY other activity, can cause injury, whether it be from an accident, poor conditioning, or training error, so don't forget the importance of proper training.