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Running May Protect Against Knee Osteoarthritis

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Runners do not face an increased risk of developing knee osteoarthritis (OA), and in fact habitual running may help protect people from developing the disease, according to new research.

Scientists in the United States analysed data from a multicentre observational study, the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI), which included 2,683 participants. Of these, 29% reported that they ran at some time in their lives.

Results showed that runners, regardless of the age when they ran, had a lower prevalence of knee pain, radiographic OA and symptomatic OA than non-runners. For people who had run at any time in their lives, 22.8% had symptomatic OA compared to 29.8% of non-runners, the American College of Rheumatology reported.

The researchers concluded that regular running, even at a non-elite level, does not increase the risk of developing knee OA and may even protect against it.

Previous research on a possible connection between running and knee OA has focused on elite male runners, and the findings may not be directly applicable to the general population, the study´s authors noted.

“This does not address the question of whether or not running is harmful to people who have pre-existing knee OA,” commented Dr. Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, a lead author of the study. “However, in people who do not have knee OA, there is no reason to restrict participation in habitual running at any time in life from the perspective that it does not appear to be harmful to the knee joint.”

The research findings were presented at the recent American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Boston.