Patients often ask if there is a relationship between running and osteoarthritis of the hip and knee due to the high impact involved; yet, running is an activity that benefits cardiovascular fitness, mood, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight loss, bone density, etc.
Prior studies have linked running to the development of hip and knee arthritis and yet, many others have shown running to have a protective effect on the knees and hips. Research now shows that your risk of developing arthritis as a runner depends on how frequently you run, and with what intensity. It appears that running in moderation is best.
A systematic review and meta-analysis this year looked at 125,810 people in 25 studies and concluded that 3.5% of recreational runners had hip or knee osteoarthritis; individuals who didn’t run at all had a rate of osteoarthritis of 10.2%; professional runners or those that competed at an international level had a rate of 13.3%.1
So there is a relationship between running and osteoarthritis. These findings suggest that high intensity or competitive running increases one’s risk of hip and knee arthritis when compared to recreational running, but then so does a sedentary lifestyle. The authors who found a link between high intensity/volume running and arthritis defined high intensity running as more than 92 km/week. Those that had been running less than 15 years were also less likely to have osteoarthritis. The sedentary individuals were defined as nonrunners but did not control for involvement in other sports, previous injury, BMI, or occupation.
1. Alentorn-Geli, E., Samuelsson, K., Musahl, V., Green, C. L., Bhandari, M., & Karlsson, J. (2017). The Association of Recreational and Competitive Running With Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JOSPT, (0), 1-36.