Maybe you should start logging in those running miles to prevent a need in older age for a total knee replacement surgery.
The myth is that jogging grinds down the cartilage between the upper and lower leg bones where they meet in the knee.
But think of how many people you know who’ve had to have knee replacement surgery—be they older or middle age. How many were runners?
Think of the people who haven’t had total knee replacement surgery but were told they’ll eventually need it. Again, how many were runners?
I don’t mean competitively or long distance, but someone who simply jogs or runs for cardiovascular and general fitness.
New Study Suggests Knee Replacement Can Be Prevented with Running
A study out of Brigham Young University shows that inflammatory chemicals in the knee joint go down after running.
The idea “long distance running is bad for your knees might be a myth,” says Matt Seeley, BYU associate professor of exercise science and study coauthor.
Two inflammation markers, GM-CSF and IL-15, were extracted from the synovial fluid of knees in the healthy study participants who were women and men 18 to 35 years old.
Seeley and Dr. Eric Robinson of Intermountain Healthcare measured these markers before and after the participants went running for 30 minutes.
After the running, the inflammatory markers were lower in concentration. When these chemicals were extracted prior to and after a non-running-related activity, their levels stayed about the same.
“Exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment,” says Robert Hyldahl, “that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health.” He’s the lead study author and a BYU assistant professor of exercise science.
Hyldahl uses the term chondroprotective, meaning, protective to cartilage.
When a person needs knee replacement surgery, it’s because too much of the cartilage between the upper and lower leg bones has worn away over the years.
Pain results due to bone-on-bone contact. This is called osteoarthritis. Total knee replacement surgery is extremely common in the U.S and affect not only “old” people but many middle agers.
And avoiding obesity does not make you immune to this condition. Thin but sedentary people develop it all the time.
“This study does not indicate distance runners are any more likely to get osteoarthritis than any other person,” explains Seeley. “Instead, this study suggests exercise can be a type of medicine.”
This is yet another study that finds what I’ve always known since high school: That jogging strengthens the knee joints and goes a long way at preventing the need for any joint replacement operations.
You may still be struggling to understand this as you picture a person’s knees jarring and absorbing large amounts of forces per square inch as their feet slam down on pavement.
But the human body was designed for lengthy stints of running. Think of how your very ancient ancestors caught their food.
Of course it’s best to run on soft, continuously changing surfaces such as grass, rather than asphalt.
Though the study focused on people 18 to 35, don’t let this discourage you from running if you’re older.
Total knee replacement surgery is no picnic, is invasive and carries risks, and recovery takes several months—my father had both knees replaced, so I definitely know!