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The Running Legend of Worn Knee


March 2012

Back in December when this blog was only a week old I wrote about some myths associated with running.  Chief among them was the idea that the impact associated with running is bad for the knees.  While this can be true if you’re running incorrectly or you happen to put more than 1,000 miles on your running shoes (I replace mine after 500 miles or once every May, whichever comes first), studies have shown that runners come down with arthritis in their knees at a reduced rate when compared to the rest of the population by nearly a third. In other words, running is good for you and your knees.

There is a reason for this difference, in addition to “running is good for you”:  “Articular cartilage actually has its own feedback mechanism to respond to exercise. Chondrocytes, the living cells that make up just 1% of cartilage, sense the loading of articular cartilage and regulate the production of matrix components to repair and remodel the tissue in response to stress”.  What this means in layman’s terms is that 1% of your cartilage is made up of cells that sense and respond to loading on the cartilage and that causes the production of more of the cells which repair the tissue in response to the loading.  To break it down further, your body is made for this stuff – even your knees.

In addition, and more importantly, the impact is good for you because the impact causes the brain to trigger bone building which makes bones denser.  To put this in practical terms, a very good friend of mine just had his hip replaced because he fell off a roof…and add to that an old motorcycle injury (or two).  He’s in his early 70’s and ran almost daily for decades up until last summer when it finally became too painful.  Because his bones were so dense from running for so long he was able to get a better hip installed – one that is made for someone more than a decade his junior.  This hip will last longer and is a better hip. The only requirement is a stiffer plant in the leg bones so it heals and works work properly.

To put this simply, running is all good for you – it’s only bad if you’re doing it wrong.  To put that in technical terms in case someone gets upset by my bluntness:  “Abnormal joint stress increases the risk of arthritis and can be caused by running on an injured joint, poor biomechanics, or muscle weakness due to inadequate cross-training“.

To recap for those in the cheap seats:

Don’t run if you’re injured.  Running injured (or at least consult your Kinesiologist first) will generally cause you to favor one leg over the other which will cause you to load up the pressure on one joint which will injure you more.  Don’t do it.

If running hurts, find out what you’re doing wrong by consulting a running coach or your local running shop (LRS).  Also, find a Kinesiologist.  They specialize in the mechanics of the human body in motion.  Mine has kept me running and healthy for more than a decade.

If your muscles are weak it’s because you haven’t committed to a Triathlon yet.  Get off the fence and let’s go rock some swimming, cycling and running.

Finally, remember, your body is meant to move.  Move it.

UPDATE:  The medical field weighs in:  “I did a presentation/lecture on running injuries…to reiterate: unless you have had a prior knee injury (i.e. a torn meniscus or ACL or something that alters the mechanics) you have NO increased risk of arthritis…so keep on running 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and for the comment Julia – I most certainly will.


  1. Karen says:

    I just visited a podiatrist for the first time and can add a couple more legit reasons for knee pain. In my case, one of my legs is longer than the other, and the physiology of my foot is a biomechanical nightmare. Biomechanics are definitely not all created equal, and hopefully with a good pair of orthotics and some PT, I’ll be up and running soon!

    • bgddyjim says:

      I read your post just a little while ago and I’m bummed you’re having a tough go.

      You just can’t beat a good, enthusiastic doctor.

      Best wishes.

  2. Julia says:

    Came across your blog on another blog!

    Well said…as a resident intern, I did a presentation/lecture on running injuries…to reiterate: unless you have had a prior knee injury (i.e. a torn meniscus or ACL or something that alters the mechanics) you have NO increased risk of arthritis…so keep on running : )

  3. […] to being a whale of a lot of fun, there is a lot more impact to the body, something that your body needs.  Also, if we’re following the axiom that suggests we participate in the sport which helps […]

  4. […] in March, I quoted an article that said this:  ““Articular cartilage actually has its own feedback mechanism […]

  5. […] much to their surprise (not mine), he had more cartilage than the average person – I’ve written about this before, many, many times – running signals the brain, and the responsive 1% of cells […]

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