Will Strenuous Exercise Cause Arthritis?
I have been running now for about five years. Before that time, I had never run more than 2 miles at a time. Back in my high school track days, I was a sprinter. I never considered myself a long distance runner. This morning I ran 14 miles with one of my dogs, Avie. It was just a regular training run. I run about three times a week and bike one or two other days. I usually run about 23 to 28 miles a week. I’ve run quite a few road races including a few marathons and half-marathons and a lot of 5k’s and 10k’s.
DO NOT Confuse "Runner's Knee With Arthritis Issues!
Contrary to what many athletes think, running knee pain does not have to be a part of their training program. There are ways to reduce and eliminate such irritation that do not involve giving up running entirely. That's good news for runners who have considered doing just that. There are some common knee ailments that affect many runners. Fortunately, they are not permanent and can be helped with a few preventative or corrective measures.
One common knee problem is known simply by the moniker Runner's Knee. With this condition, runners usually experience pain around and behind the knee cap. This problem is generally a symptom of weak quadriceps muscles, improper foot support, or both. Preventing Runner's Knee is fairly simple. It helps to regularly perform exercises that focus specifically on strengthening the quadriceps muscles. Running helps to develop the hamstring, which is the muscle on the back of the thigh, but does not do much for the quadriceps. By adding a few simple strengthening exercises into your routine you can help correct this imbalance and lessen pain caused by Runner's Knee. Since improper foot support can also contribute to this condition, make sure you're wearing a sturdy pair of running shoes that are not worn out. Also consider whether you might be overpronating or supinating with your feet when you run. This either rolling out or rolling in of the feet can significantly contribute to Runner's Knee. While you're diagnosing the causes of this condition, also look at the surfaces on which you've been running and the duration of your runs. If your running surface is uneven, has a lot of hills, or if you have significantly increased your distance recently, these all may be factors contributing to this problem.
Remedying running knee pain brought about as a result of Runner's Knee is fairly simple. Run on a flat surface, decrease your distance, use ice packs and anti-inflammatories after running, buy a new pair of shoes, and perform some thigh strengthening exercises. Any combination of these strategies should help Runner's Knee to subside.
If you are experiencing pain on the outside of your knee that does not involve swelling, you may have a different condition known as Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Most often, this form of running knee pain occurs only when an individual is running, and commonly disappears as soon as they stop. This syndrome is generally caused by simple overuse of the knee joint and it can be a very frustrating condition for runners as it takes awhile to resolve. Consider taking some time off or, if that is not an option, consider greatly reducing the number of miles you're running in a week. Ice packs are important with this one, and will likely help resolve a lot of the pain issues associated with this condition. Since the iliotibial band is connected to the hip, it may be helpful to regularly perform some hip strengthening exercises and to stretch this region before and after any workouts.
Running knee pain does not have to be an inevitable part of your workouts. Using common sense, and listening to your body when it's in pain are important components to maintaining a health and fitness regimen. Most importantly, use proper equipment, like a good quality pair of running shoes, and give yourself plenty of training time on flat, level surfaces. Practices such as these will keep you fit and running for years to come.
Here I am with Avie running on one of our trails.
I am not the best runner around, but I have placed in my age group in quite a few races. I simply can’t say enough about how running has changed my life. It is such a rewarding feeling to know I am 48 years old and in the best shape of my life! When I was in my teens and twenties, running fourteen miles would have been a complete impossibility. It is a GREAT feeling!
Will Exercise "Ruin" Your Knees?
Along the way, I have been asked by friends, family and co-workers if I am worried about “ruining” my knees for later life. Their claims are that I will surely get arthritis later in life because of all these miles. I have done much reading on this subject. I needed to know if they were correct!
I have come across some studies specific to this subject. There are also many meta-analysis studies related to this topic. (Meta-analysis research is done by analyzing other research already done, usually on related topics, which leads to conclusions on the new topic being studied.) In all of my reading, I have not come across one study which suggested running or any other form of exercise would lead to joint problems later in life. In fact, there are a few studies which concluded impact exercises actually protect the joints from arthritis later in life. However, the majority of the studies indicate strenuous exercise has no direct relationship, positive or negative, on future arthritis problems. It seems genetics is the true trump card for being affected by arthritis.
This is great news! The benefits of strenuous exercise are so numerous! I always speculated that those people worried about my knees, were simply looking for an excuse not to exercise themselves. So get yourself out there and start enjoying the benefits of hard workouts! But start out slow! You will injure your body in some way if you do too much too soon! Depending upon your age, it could very well take you a year or two to work up to a very high level of aerobic fitness. But is so very worth it!
And don’t forget, the joints need plenty of glucosamine when you engage in vigorous exercise! 1500 mg of glucosamine daily will ensure your joints will have the building blocks to regenerate healthy, protective cartilage!
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