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Running is an excellent activity to promote general health and well-being. However, running injuries are common, and concern is sometimes raised that running might lead to osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints. This article reviews the relevant in vitro and in vivo literature that looks at possible associations between running and the development of osteoarthritis. Also reviewed is the limited literature on running barefoot and with minimalist footwear. Low- and moderate-volume runners appear to have no more risk of developing osteoarthritis than nonrunners. The existing literature is inconclusive about a possible association between high-volume running and the development of osteoarthritis. The early literature on running barefoot and running with minimalist footwear has primarily focused on biomechanics but has not yet focused on any effect on cartilage health. Experienced and beginner runners should be encouraged to allow the body adequate time to adapt to changes in gait biomechanics caused by changing footwear, which can be done by slowly increasing running mileage in the new footwear. Clinicians can improve the health of runners by encouraging appropriate treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, encouraging maintenance of an optimal body mass index, and correcting gait abnormalities caused by deficits in flexibility, strength, or motor control along the kinetic chain.
Re: Does running increase the risk for osteoarthritis?
Who remembers all the headlines, rhetoric and propaganda on the barefoot running sites that running shoes cause knee osteoarthritis based on a study that was not even on osteoarthritis? It was pointed out at the time if that was the case, then as most runners use running shoes you would expect to see more OA in runners compared to the general population, which every single study has shown that was not the case. Good to see that the research since then continues to confirm it.
Running and other strenuous sports activities are purported to increase osteoarthritis (OA) risk, more so than walking and less-strenuous activities. Analyses were therefore performed to test whether running, walking, and other exercise affect OA and hip replacement risk, and to assess BMI's role in mediating these relationships.
Proportional hazards analyses of patients' report of having physician-diagnosed OA and hip replacement vs. exercise energy expenditure (metabolic equivalents, METs).
74,752 runners reported 2004 OA and 259 hip replacements during 7.1-year follow-up, while the 14,625 walkers reported 696 OA and 114 hip replacements over 5.7 years. Compared to running <1.8 METhr/d, the risks for OA and hip replacement decreased: 1) 18.1% (P=0.01) and 35.1% (P=0.03), respectively, for 1.8 to 3.6 METhr/d run; 2) 16.1% (P=0.03) and 50.4% (P=0.002), respectively, for 3.6 to 5.4 METhr/d run; and 3) 15.6% (P=0.02) and 38.5% (P=0.01), respectively, for ≥5.4 METhr/d run, suggesting that the risk reduction mostly occurred by 1.8 METhr/d. Baseline BMI was strongly associated with both OA (5.0% increase per kg/m, P=2x10) and hip replacement risks (9.8% increase per kg/m, P=4.8x10), and adjustment for BMI substantially diminished the risk reduction from running ≥1.8 METhr/d for OA (from 16.5%, P=0.01 to 8.6%, P=0.21) and hip replacement (from 40.4%, P=0.005 to 28.5%, P=0.07). The reductions in OA and hip replacement risk by exceeding 1.8 METhr/d did not differ significantly between runners and walkers. Other (non-running) exercise increased the risk of OA by 2.4% (P=0.009) and hip replacement by 5.0% per METhr/d (P=0.02), independent of BMI.
Whereas other exercise increased OA and hip replacement risk, running significantly reduced their risk due, in part, to running's association with lower BMI.