Long May You Run

If you've been a runner for any length of time, chances are that some finger-wagging Cassandra has warned you that your running is going to ruin your knees.

"You'll hurt yourself!"

"You'll get arthritis!"

I've acknowledged these warnings in the past by telling said finger-wagger that I love running so much that I was happy to live with the risk --- but now I have a new, more effective comeback: scientific data.

A study published recently in the Journal of Preventive Medicine, conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine has demonstrated that "Long-distance running among healthy older individuals was not associated with accelerated osteoarthritis," and in fact, some data in the survey suggests that runners might actually have a lower risk of developing arthritis in their knees and hips, though the specific study sample was too small to prove in a statistically significant way that running had a protective effect.

The best news of all is, this study isn't alone in dispelling the notion that running destroys people's knees. A 2006 study of runners, conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and published in the Journal of American Osteopathic Association, concluded: "It appears that long-distance running does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people who have no other counterindications for this kind of physical activity. Long-distance running might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration."

Even back in 1990, a study in Denmark, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, came to the same conclusion: "A lifetime of long distance running at mileage levels comparable to those of recreational runners today is not associated with premature osteoarthrosis in the joints of the lower extremities." And these are but a few of the many studies I came across today as I perused the bibliographies of these three -- all of them concluding that running doesn't cause arthritis, and might in fact be healthy for the connective tissues in your joints that could otherwise develop arthritis as you age.

So run on, my friends, and long may you run.

See you on the trail!