Recreational runners have a lower occurrence of knee and hip osteoarthritis compared to sedentary individuals and competitive runners, according to a new international study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT).
Researchers in Spain, Sweden, the United States and Canada conducted a systematic review of 17 studies involving a total of 114,829 people, revealing that only 3.5% of male and female recreational runners developed hip or knee arthritis.
In contrast, remaining sedentary and forgoing running for exercise was associated with a rate of knee and hip arthritis of 10.2%, while training and running competitively increased the incidence of arthritis in these joints to 13.3%.
Runners were considered “competitive” if they identified themselves as professional/elite athletes or participated in international competitions. Recreational runners were those individuals who ran in a non-professional, or amateur, context.
Previous studies that also found a link between high-volume and high-intensity running and knee and hip arthritis defined exercise at this level as running more than 57 miles (92 km) per week.
“The principal finding in this study is that, in general, running is not associated with osteoarthritis,” said lead author Dr Eduard Alentorn-Geli. He added that “the novel finding in our investigation is the increased association between running and arthritis in competitive, but not in recreational, runners.”
The researchers concluded that running at a recreational level for many years (up to 15 years and possibly more) may be safely recommended as a general health exercise, with benefits for hip and knee joint health.