Is running bad for your knees?

Running isn’t bad for you- depending on you… I’ve had patients, other PT’s, even doctors claim that running is “bad” for your knees and body- this simply isn’t true.

Looking at the research, there is nothing showing that primary exercise as running directly correlates to increased knee arthritis, or problems later in life. In fact runners by and large tend to be much healthier overall than their counterparts- improved cardiovascular function, less likely to get other host of diseases and issues related to obesity, diabetes, heart attack, etc.

what I DO caution people is that running is not the best sport for SOME people. Any patient of mine with: significant knee arthritis already, significantly overweight, anyone who is deconditioned with significant hip weakness or who has no strength routine in their life- this is the population who should consider avoiding running altogether and probably try less loading sports such as cycling or swimming.

If a joint is really arthritic, it may not have the resiliency to absorb shock appropriately as is required for running, so those patients I would say not worth it. Likewise any person heavily overweight where their body mass is such that joint reaction forces would be too much for the pounding on their knees, I would also say defer. Lastly anyone who has a major instability at the hip from lack of strength and significant weakness with core- these are the main groups who likely should refrain from running and perhaps pick another sport for their regular cardiovascular needs.

For the rest of us- treat running with respect! You wouldn’t jump into an ice hockey game or water polo with no previous training, prep, or understand of how to adapt to that new sport! Running is the same.
Running takes time and finesse- your tendons must also adapt to the quick loading of each foot striking the ground, this takes time for your body to accommodate and change the tensile strength of your muscles, ligaments, even tendons.
This is not an easy sport, the ground reaction forces as each foot hits the ground are tenfold and then some compared to normal walking- the load on each leg must be counterbalanced by good hip strength to keep the hip level and knee from dipping in at an angle. These are the reasons why running must be a gradual process if you are new to the sport.
For my patients I suggest a walk jog progression of 1:1 and I keep it short in time! Starting on a soft surface is easiest i.e. Treadmill or track. 10mins may be more than enough to start. Building off that walk:jog progression to add in more jogging as time goes on.
That supplemented with some good gym work to focus on hip strength should be sufficient for MOST people, of any age, to begin running

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