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Running is good for your knees, researchers say

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Running is sometimes associated with inflammation and soreness in the knee joint. But perhaps this is unfair, because new research in the United States suggests that running can actually reduce joint inflammation.

Researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) found that pro-inflammatory molecules go down in the knee joint after running. What’s more, running may slow the process that leads to osteoarthritis.

“It flies in the face of intuition,” said study co-author Matt Seeley, associate professor of exercise science at BYU. “This idea that long-distance running is bad for your knees might be a myth.”

In the study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Seeley and a group of BYU colleagues, as well as Dr Eric Robinson from Intermountain Healthcare, measured inflammation markers in the knee joint fluid of six recreational runners aged 18-35, before and after running.

According to BYU, the researchers found that the specific markers they were looking for in the extracted synovial fluid — two cytokines named GM-CSF and IL-15 — decreased in concentration in the subjects after 30 minutes of running. When the same fluids were extracted before and after a non-running condition, the inflammation markers stayed at similar levels.

“What we now know is that for young, healthy individuals, exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health,” explained study lead author Robert Hyldahl, BYU assistant professor of exercise science.

The results indicate that running may help delay the onset of joint degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis, Hyldahl said.

“This study does not indicate that distance runners are any more likely to get osteoarthritis than any other person,” Seeley added. “Instead, this study suggests exercise can be a type of medicine.”

Next, the researchers plan to do similar tests on people who have suffered ACL injuries.