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Fact or Fiction?: Running Ruins Your Knees

A new study sheds light on one of the biggest myths in fitness.

How many times have you heard someone swear off running, claiming that pounding pavement was going to kill their knees? Yeah, we lost count, too. But a new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise has debunked the decades-old idea that running ruins your joints.

Sure, on a per-step basis, running puts more pressure on your joints compared to walking. But the study, which included almost 75,000 runners, found no evidence that running increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis, even if you bang out marathons on a regular basis. In fact, the research suggests that runners--let's clarify: Runners who had no previously existing knee problems—actually had a lower risk of developing arthritis compared to less active non-runners.

Another interesting thing to note about the study: While doctors often advise older people to walk for exercise, running is just as smart an option. According to the research, when runners were asked to walk and then run on a 50-foot runway, running generated eight times the amount of impact on the knees as walking, but running required longer strides and reduced contact with the ground, offsetting the impact of all those intense foot strikes. So, over any given distance, the pounding on a person’s knees was about the same whether they ran or walked. 

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