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It’s a question we always get at Sydney Physio Solutions, so we’ve tried to summarise it for all the budding (and established) runners out there!
- The simple answer is no…sort of! Provided you don’t have any joint injury or damage, there seems to be no evidence to support the idea that running is bad for you. In fact, there’s some evidence that it’s good for your joints. The problems come about when there is some existing injury in the joint…in this situation, we know that running can contribute to the wearing down of the joint’s cartilage.
- Running style changes can have a big impact on how you load your joints.
- There are a number of great studies into the biomechanics of running which look at a variable called ground reaction force. This is the amount of force that the ground imparts on your foot and therefore your body as you run. Remember Newtons laws?! For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
- Increasing your cadence, or the number of steps you take per minute, can help. A lot of runners are running at somewhere around 160 or 165 steps per minute, sometimes even a bit lower. If you can increase that to around 180, you’d be able to reduce that ground reaction force significantly. This can be achieved by shortening the stride-length, and speeding up the rate at which the legs go around, so you’re actually taking more steps but they’re shorter.
- Footwear would be another factor that has some impact on the forces through the joints, but it’s really hard to generalise on footwear because it depends on the person, their structures, their weaknesses and running style etc.
What role do supplements have in joint health? Do supplements help in running training?
- There were a couple of really good research studies done that were published in 2015. One of them from Australia. They both showed that the remaining space in the knee joint didn’t narrow as much in the group receiving glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. This suggests there may be some protection of remaining cartilage (Fransen et al, 2015).
- We therefore advise all of my patients with mild to moderate arthritis who want to remain active to get onto glucosamine and chondroitin as a dietary supplement and to continue taking it.