Running Actually Good For Knees, Study Finds

PROVO, Utah — It’s a common belief that the impact of running is rough on the body, in particular, the knees. But a recent study finds that the opposite might be true and that running could actually be good for the knees. 

“What we now know is that for young, healthy individuals, exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health,” study lead author Robert Hyldahl, BYU assistant professor of exercise science, said in a release.

A new study finds that running may actually reduce inflammation in the knee joints.

Many people believe that the pressure of running wears down the cartilage in the knees over time, which would ultimately lead to bone on bone contact and arthritic pain. But the numbers of runners who end up knee issues doesn’t exactly match what one would assume.

Studies on the subject have found that running does, in fact, change the knee, but that it can actually reduce inflammation. To test this out, six recreational runners were asked to spend 30 minutes running followed by 30 minutes of a control session. Throughout the process, they had samples taken of synovial fluid from the knee joint which was then assessed for its cytokine concentration, a pro-inflammatory molecule.

The researchers found that there was no difference to the cytokines in the control situation, but there was actually a drop in the cytokine level following the running sessions. That means running may actually reduce inflammation in joints.

“It flies in the face of intuition,” said study coauthor Matt Seeley, associate professor of exercise science at BYU. “This idea that long-distance running is bad for your knees might be a myth.”

Researchers now plan to look at how running affects those with previous knee injuries.

The study was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in December.