Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
As a runner you’ve probably heard the blanket statement, running is bad for your knees, more times than you care to count. And while you may have chalked up the validity to common sense (running = greater pounding on your joints), a recent study concludes runners don’t have an increased risk for developing arthritis of the knees.
Researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario tested a group of runners separately from a group of walkers to determine the amount of impact experienced during each of the exercises. Initial findings shared no surprise. Generally, the runners struck the ground with about eight times their body weight equalling approximately three times more than the impact of the walkers.
Understandably though, the runners struck the ground less than walkers simply due to a longer stride length. Contact with the ground was also less for runners, which resulted in less amount of impact time compared to the walkers.
All things considered, the study concluded that participants in both groups experienced the about same amount of impact to their knees regardless of the mode of exercise. While runners did encounter a greater impact, they took less steps when compared to the walkers, eventually leading to a level playing field in terms of wear and tear on the knees.
Some may even argue runners enjoy greater protection against arthritis of the knees due to the cyclical loading (or the rotation of impact on the joints during the run cycle) that running facilitates. In preliminary testing, scientists found that on-off impact promotes cartilage cell regeneration, offering a stronger barrier again arthritis. Though more testing is necessary before a solid, conclusive relationship can be made, initial impressions are myth-busting!