March 22, 2023 — Lengthy-distance runners are sometimes warned that they’re carrying out their joints. However operating distance, frequency, and velocity aren’t related to an elevated threat of osteoarthritis, new analysis says.

Osteoarthritis is attributable to the breakdown of cartilage in joints, and it’s the commonest kind of arthritis. Over 32.5 million U.S. adults have osteoarthritis, in accordance with the CDC. 

It has typically been thought that operating may improve the chance of osteoarthritis as a result of it places extra load on joints than strolling or standing, mentioned Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, MD, assistant professor of immunology, allergy, and rheumatology on the Baylor Faculty of Medication in Houston, who was not concerned with the work. Analysis on this space has had blended outcomes: A 2017 evaluation of a number of research discovered that aggressive runners did have larger charges of arthritis than leisure runners, whereas one other examine Lo performed discovered runners didn’t have an elevated threat of knee osteoarthritis in comparison with non-runners. A 2018 examine confirmed that marathon runners had decrease cases of arthritis than the overall inhabitants.

On this new examine, researchers surveyed 3,804 runners who participated within the 2019 or 2021 Chicago Marathon about their operating historical past, common mileage per week, and common operating tempo. The survey additionally requested about identified threat elements for osteoarthritis together with weight, household historical past of arthritis, and previous accidents of the knee or hip that prevented operating. 

Runners, on common, have been about 44 years outdated and ran about 28 miles per week. The biggest proportion of respondents had accomplished between two to 5 marathons (37.3%), round 21% respondents had completed six to 10 marathons, and 17% have been operating their first marathon. Research contributors had a mean of 15 years of operating expertise, 1,892 reported a earlier hip or knee damage, and 413 had underwent knee or hip surgical procedure. General, 36.4% reported experiencing hip or knee ache previously 12 months and seven.3% had been recognized with arthritis.

Researchers discovered that there was no affiliation threat of osteoarthritis and weekly mileage, years spent operating, variety of marathons accomplished, or operating tempo. Respondents who had undergone knee or hip surgical procedure or had a earlier hip or knee damage that prevented operating have been almost certainly to have arthritis. Household historical past of arthritis, larger physique mass index (BMI), and older age have been additionally tied with elevated threat of the situation. 

The information needs to be encouraging for runners, mentioned Matthew Hartwell, MD, an orthopedic surgeon on the College of California, San Francisco, who led the analysis. If somebody doesn’t have accidents or surgical procedures that hold them from operating, “you’ll be able to nonetheless proceed to run,” he mentioned. “There could not essentially be this dose response relationship the place the extra you run, the extra you break down your knee or your hip.”

Nonetheless, 24.2% of runners reported that their physician had suggested them to chop down their mileage or cease operating altogether. Most runners (94.2%) mentioned they deliberate to run one other marathon.

“The outcomes of this examine are in step with the experiences of many lifelong runners and observations of sports activities medication professionals that osteoarthritis just isn’t an inevitable consequence of distance operating,” mentioned Brett Toresdahl, MD, a sports activities medication physician on the Hospital for Particular Surgical procedure in New York Metropolis, who was not concerned with the examine. 

Nonetheless, he emphasised that extra analysis is important to grasp if operating contributes to the chance of growing osteoarthritis. The contributors within the examine have been present marathoners, he mentioned, so it’s possible they’ve wholesome joints that may tolerate operating longer distances. 

“If there’s a subset of people that have joints which might be negatively affected by operating, they would not possible be registering for a marathon,” he mentioned in an electronic mail interview. Lo mentioned that evaluating these marathoners to a non-running group would additionally assist present if operating will be dangerous to joints. 

Whereas the analysis doesn’t reply the query of whether or not operating can result in osteoarthritis, it helps present the necessity for long-term analysis on how operating impacts joints extra time and common well being. 

 “It could take time for the medical neighborhood to maneuver past, ‘if it hurts, don’t do it,’ and reflexively advising in opposition to high-impact train when somebody begins to develop osteoarthritis,” Toresdahl mentioned.

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