A recent, large scale study has shown that running is actually linked to lower arthritis rates than walking. This study, performed by Paul Williams, Ph.D., analyzed 74,752 runners along with 14,625 walkers and was published in the journal Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. The results surprised even those analyzing the data. First, it showed that runners had approximately half the risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement as walkers. This goes completely against the theory that running is ‘bad for your knees and hips”. As far as scientific studies go, a 50% differential when comparing two groups is MASSIVE and very significant.
The second major finding came when the author separated runners into categories based on average mileage per week. The groups were divided into 7, 7-14, 4-21, and 21+ miles per week. Again, contrary to common belief he found that those who did more than 7 miles per week had a 15-18% reduction in osteoarthritis and 35-50% reduction in hip replacements. If running itself was so bad for the knee and hip joints this finding would be completely reversed. It is impossible to know exactly what the reasons were for these shocking results. However, it can probably be assumed that those who consistently run are overall healthier individuals with an assumed lower BMI (Body Mass Index). Excess weight can be a large factor in the development of osteoarthritis as the joints are under too much stress. Running is a great way to burn calories, lose weight, and stay in good shape which would place less overall stress to the joints all day long. Running also puts force through the joints and in return causes the body to strengthen the bones and cartilage for such demands.
However, the benefits go beyond just reduction in weight and stronger bones. Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises that you can perform. It makes the heart strong and allows the body to become accustomed to handling strenuous tasks. And as cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer in society today it seems wise to want a strong heart.
Running also helps to boost metabolism, increase the production of endorphins, and is a great way to relieve stress. In fact, the number of benefits to running are numerous. The main objection to running for many in the medical field was the assumed damage happening to your joints. However, with this study we can now see that those assumptions are just not valid. This is not to say that running is not strenuous to the body, but so is any exercise. In my opinion, the benefits far outweigh any potential negatives and the rationale to not run because ‘it is too hard on the body‘ is just silly. Now, we have some literature to back it up.
As a chiropractor, and one who analyzes people heavily on function, it is obvious to see that if joints are misaligned then stress to certain joints will be excessive. If the joints in your pelvis or low back are misaligned or not moving correctly then the hips and legs are forced to move abnormally to compensate. Over time, this dysfunction can definitely create osteoarthritis and speed up its development. It is exactly like the alignment on your car. If your cars alignment is off, the tires wear down much faster in certain spots. Your body does the same and develops osteoarthritis from excessive, asymmetrical wear. Keep the body functioning properly and it should be able to handle things such as running with no problem.