Does running ruin the knees? How to save your joints without giving up your workout


For athletes, the benefits of such preventive programs are clear. For the average person with – for now – no knee pain, it’s more debatable. “It’s also a philosophical question,” Dr Roos said: There’s a risk of over-medicalising life by spending all your energy trying to prevent problems that haven’t yet happened.

But there are some relatively unobtrusive ways of tilting the odds in your favor, even if you’re currently healthy. Dr. Roos suggested focusing on high-quality movement patterns during day-to-day activities like getting up from a chair: Use both feet and no hands, and keep the knee and hip aligned over the foot. Apply similar focus to climbing stairs and sitting down on the toilet; if you can’t keep the joints aligned, that’s a sign you need to strengthen your leg and hip muscles.


There’s no high-quality evidence that supplements, including glucosamine and chondroitin, make any difference, according to both Dr Roos and Dr Whittaker – though they don’t appear to be harmful either.

“If you’re OK paying for it, and you want to take it because you think it’s doing something to preserve your joint, not a problem,” Dr Whittaker said. “But in addition, can you please also be doing some cyclical weight-bearing activity and so on?”

There is one intriguing possible exception. A small 2011 study by researchers at Tufts Medical Center found that cartilage quality in the knee improved after six months of taking 10g of collagen daily. More recently, Dr Baar’s research on lab-grown ligaments, which, like cartilage, are primarily made of collagen, also supports the idea that consuming collagen before exercise can trigger new collagen synthesis in the body. But for now, the real-world benefits of this approach remain unproven.

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To Dr Whittaker, the most important priority remains debunking the notion that you should stop being active as soon as you notice knee pain. Staying active, strengthening the muscles around the joint and developing good movement patterns can alter, and in some cases reverse, the trajectory, she said. “A lot of people think that osteoarthritis is just a normal consequence of aging, right? It’s not inevitable. There’s a lot you can control.”

By Alex Hutchinson © The New York Times

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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