The knee study that might surprise you
Can running actually be good for your knees?
That’s the finding of a new study that looked at how running may actually promote knee health and protect against developing inflammatory diseases like arthritis. What they found might just make you want to lace up your sneakers and give it a go.
“We get asked almost weekly if running is bad for you. And honestly, I would have said yes before seeing this study,” he said. “It makes intuitive sense that continual pounding on your knees is bad for you. Yet, that being said, former marathoners or regular runners never seem to need knee replacements.”
There is no better anecdotal evidence needed than the career of famed East Dennis marathoner Johnny Kelly, who died in 2004 at age 94. He ran the last of his 112 marathons at age 84 and still had the knees he was born with.
So what could it be about running that might dispel the long-held notion that it is bad for your knees? Researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah wanted to find out.
Previous research has already demonstrated that long-term runners are less likely to develop osteoarthritis than their non-running peers. The goal of the study was to determine what impact joint loading (impact from running) has on a person with healthy knees, what effect it has on the concentration of inflammatory-related proteins contained within the knee, and the relationship between the two.
A Small Study
A small group of 15 runners with healthy knees participated in the study. They ranged in age from 18 to 40 and were predominately men (11 men and 4 women).
Each participant had their blood taken and underwent a needle extraction of a small amount of synovial fluid from their right knee before and after running for 30 minutes at their own pace.
In between, they were transported by wheelchair to eliminate any potential effect of walking.
A week later, the same group remained sedentary for 30 minutes and underwent the same fluid retrieval sequence as before.
Synovial fluid provides lubrication to keep joint movements smooth and easy.
Retrieving samples of synovial fluid proved to be difficult on some participants, so in the end only six runners were able to complete the study.
The results demonstrated that in almost all of the participants there was a decrease in the concentration of cytokine proteins, or those linked to inflammation, in the knee after running. Furthermore, higher levels of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), which is associated with cartilage turnover – a positive event – was detected in the blood stream.
In the resting group, the results were the opposite, indicating that being sedentary increases the concentration of inflammatory markers.