By: 3 March 2017
Long-distance running is bad for your knees: Truth or myth?

New research from Brigham Young University (BYU) exercise science professors has found that levels of pro-inflammatory molecules decrease in the knee joint after running. The finding challenges some of the commonly held beliefs about running, and suggests that it might actually reduce joint inflammation.

“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 a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Seeley and a group of BYU colleagues, as well as Eric Robinson of Intermountain Healthcare, measured inflammation markers in the knee joint fluid of several healthy men and women aged between 18 and 35, before and after running.

The researchers studied the levels of two markers for inflammation in the extracted synovial fluid, the cytokines granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin(IL)-15. They found that levels of the two markers decreased in concentration in the subjects after 30 minutes of running; however, 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,” said lead author Robert Hyldahl, BYU assistant professor of exercise science. He added that the study results indicate that running is chondroprotective, which means exercise may help delay the onset of joint degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis.

“This study does not indicate that distance runners are any more likely to get osteoarthritis than any other person,” Seeley said.

The researchers now plan to turn their attention to study subjects with previous knee injuries, specifically those who have suffered ACL injuries.

Source: Brigham Young University


Reference: Hyldahl, R.D., Evans, A., Kwon, S., et al. (2016) Running decreases knee intra-articular cytokine and cartilage oligomeric matrix concentrations: a pilot study. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. doi: 10.1007/s00421-016-3474-z3R.