SAVE YOUR KNEES: Run more
November 04, 2020 • 1 min read
-- Running hammers knees, but it also fortifies knee cartilage
The billion-dollar sports shoe industry is built as much on the promise of performance enhancement as it is on claims that the right shoes will save our joints from wear and tear of repeated running.
However, while a decent pair of shoes will help you to run more comfortably, that might be the end of the story. Because pounding your knee joints is exactly what they need to keep working.
As a group, in fact, runners may be statistically less likely to become arthritic than non-runners.
In the quest to understand why, researchers have looked to animal studies, which show that cartilage might be more resilient in active animals than in their so-called couch-dwelling equivalents – highlighting the possibility that active animals’ cartilage responds to running.
A recent study of human subjects used plates to gauge forces generated by walkers and runners, combining the data with past studies of biopsied cartilage to build computer models in a bid to predict the health of knee cartilage in adults.
The model compared a group of adults who walked for 6 km every day for years with adults who both walked and ran on each of those days.
Simulations showed that when the model assumed cartilage cannot change, the runners’ risk of eventual arthritis is a whopping 98%, declining only to 95% if the model factored in the possibility of cartilage repair.
But if the model included the likelihood of the cartilage actively adapting when people ran – growing thicker and cushier – the odds of runners developing arthritis fell to about 13%, the same as for healthy walkers.
Researchers say the results suggest that cartilage is malleable, possessing the ability to sense strains and damage from running to rebuild itself to become stronger.