Despite the amazing health benefits of exercise, the CDC estimates 80% of Americans do not meet national guidelines for weekly exercise. Patients with knee arthritis report decreased participation in daily exercise programs including walking and moderate exercise secondary to pain, weakness, and fear of injury. In our Boulder Physical Therapy practice many patients are fearful of exacerbating their current knee symptoms and restrict one of the most powerful interventions for their condition. Exercise is critical to the successful management of knee arthritis and has been shown to have a protective effect on the joint’s cartilage. Many research studies have reported the absence of a link between running and development of arthritis, but does running worsen present arthritis?
A recent research study in the journal of Clinical Rheumatology examined the association between running and symptom and structural progression of knee arthritis (Lo et al. 2018). 1,203 runners included in the study were at least 50 years of age with radiographic evidence of arthritis in at least one knee. Participants were examined at baseline and 4 years after entering the study. Consistent with our current knowledge, running did not worsen the structural progression of arthritis. The authors reported running was associated with a decrease in knee arthritis symptoms. They concluded “self selected running need not be discouraged in people with knee osteoarthritis”.