If you suffer from arthritis, you know that exercising can be difficult and painful.
You may also have heard that exercising is very beneficial for arthritis.
There is a myth about a specific type of exercise and arthritis that a new study presented at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons debunked.
Running is a high-impact activity that can put stress on the joints, especially the knees and hips. The fear is that, over time, this stress can cause wear and tear on the cartilage and other tissues in the joint, leading to arthritis.
Up to now, the research has been mixed, with some studies finding an increased risk of arthritis among runners and others finding a reduced risk.
To clear up this confusion, the scientists responsible for this new study recruited 3,804 runners who took part in the Chicago Marathon in either 2019 or 2021.
The scientists asked the runners about their running experience, including their running frequency, average weekly distance covered, and pace.
They also inquired about specific factors that increase the likelihood of osteoarthritis, such as body mass index, family history of arthritis, and previous knee or hip injuries that hindered running.
The participants had impressive running habits. They ran an average of 27.9 miles per week, 37.3% had completed between two and five marathons, and 21% had finished between six and 10. They reported a running history of 15 years.
On the downside, 1,892 reported having previously suffered a hip or knee injury, 413 had had knee or hip surgery (which makes running seem especially courageous), 36.4% had experienced relatively recent hip or knee pain, and 7.3% already had arthritis.
The scientists crunched the numbers and reached the following conclusions.
1. The likelihood of developing arthritis was not related to the length of running history, weekly mileage, number of marathons, or running speed.
2. Those who had undergone knee or hip surgery were 5.85 times more likely to develop arthritis than those who had had no surgery.
3. Participants who had experienced knee or hip injuries that prevented running were five times more likely to have arthritis.
This means that arthritis is only a risk for runners who have had hip or knee injuries or surgery. It is not a risk for runners without such histories.
This also means that it’s just a myth that running causes arthritis.