[Paleopsych] NYT: The Claim: Running Increases the Risk of Osteoarthritis

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The Claim: Running Increases the Risk of Osteoarthritis
NYT August 24, 2004

[General interest article.]

THE FACTS As any person who jogs regularly will tell you, a
life of pounding the pavement can result in aching knees
and joints. It is no surprise, then, that many runners
worry about developing osteoarthritis, the degenerative
joint disease. But in numerous studies over the years,
researchers have found that people who jog moderately a few
times a week are not especially susceptible to
osteoarthritis. Compared with people who do not exercise at
all, recreational runners are generally less likely to
suffer from joint problems.

Experts say overworking a previously injured knee or joint
can lead to more damage. Professional athletes often have
higher rates of arthritis, for example, because of repeated
injuries over years. But in healthy joints, moderate
exercise strengthens bones and muscles; that is believed to
help prevent osteoarthritis and other problems. Exercise
also reduces excess weight, which can place stress on
joints and increase the chance of developing arthritis.

In the 1980's, researchers at Stanford compared hundreds of
runners to nonrunners over a five-year period. The runners,
though they experienced aches and pains, had fewer joint or
muscle problems than the control group. They spent about 33
percent less time in the hospital, had lower blood pressure
and missed half as many workdays.

The researchers, however, could not rule out the
possibility that people who were previously healthy were
simply more likely to take up running. Years later, a study
in The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that 30
long-distance runners who averaged more than 12 miles a
week over four decades showed no difference in rates of
arthritis in their hips, knees and ankles when compared
with a group of nonrunners. Another study found that people
who suffered joint injuries as young adults were almost
twice as likely to develop osteoarthritis by the age of 65
as people without earlier injuries.

THE BOTTOM LINE Recreational running has not been shown to
increase the risk of osteoarthritis.


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