"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Great News for KNEES!

For as long as runners have been logging miles for exercise there has been contradictory opinions on the long term effect that running has on the knee.  Specifically, many have debated the connection between running and osteoarthritis, or the premature degeneration of the joint and associated cartilage. The question is whether or not the constant pounding of the pavement wears out your knees?

Several years ago, the answer of whether or not runners ended up with worn out knees was an unanimous 'yes'. However, researchers began to observe that the rate of arthritis in the knee of runners was actually the same, or even less than, non-runners. Is that possible? Doesn't that fly in the face of conventional wisdom? Unless there is conclusive scientific evidence it will be difficult to buy this side of the debate.  Well, ............

Earlier today, a story ran on NPR that discussed the most comprehensive studies to date on this subject.  I have provided the link at the bottom of this blog and I highly encourage you take a quick look. It is exciting news and offers hope to those of us that figure on running for a long, long time. I cannot do justice to the full report, but below I have summarized the highlights. 

*  Over 28 formal studies, covering over 10,000 runners, found that running 4 / 5 times a week, for 4 - 6 miles, at a pace of 8:00 - 10:00 per mile, caused no increase risk to developing osteoarthritis.

*  Sometime shortly after age 40 we begin to lose cartilage mass across various joints. One recent Swedish study discovered that the pounding impact of the foot striking the ground actually seemed to generate proteins that stimulate cartilage repair.   In other words, running appears to help delay this loss of mass and improve the biochemistry of the cartilage. 

*  The studies also show that runners who continued running regularly past their 50's, and into their 60's and 70's, developed no greater risk of joint injury.  In fact, a side benefit is that those who did decide to stop running after age 60, were actually more likely to substitute an equally beneficial activity into their daily routine.  This resulted in a higher quality, longer life. 

*  Caveats:  There are injury risks associated with running that do effect the knee.  These are typically short term and will ultimately heal.  It is the long term injury that is at question in these studies. Additionally, if you have had knee related surgeries or serious joint injuries, then running will increase your risk of further damage.  There are also greater risks for those that abuse long mileage without proper rest and regularly run faster miles (5:00 - 6:00 minute miles), or speed work without slower runs scheduled.

This report made my day.  I recall how similar advice for dealing with a severe ruptured disc a few years ago really turned my recovery around.  The doctor described the newly accepted position on treating disc injuries as to encourage regular exercise, not bed rest.  It was through exercise like walking and running, (or at least attempted running in my case), that the disc and spine were stimulated and would more quickly heal.  That prescription led to a much faster recovery.  This research will hopefully lead to a lifetime of running. It's a brave new world!

 Click here for NPR audio and text report

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