Is running bad for you?
Protecting your joints while enjoying your passion.
Juice Staff Published: June 19, 2020
If you’re a runner like I am, you have most likely heard that running can be bad for your knees, hips and joints. It’s a warning I’ve never wanted to hear. To me, running is a fun exercise. It’s a time to collect my thoughts, decompress and get a cardio workout. However, as I get older, I’ve started thinking more about wear and tear on my body. Am I really damaging my joints by running?
Brett Frykberg, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute (JOI), said that running or any type of exercise is not only good, but necessary for healthy joints. As a former track and field athlete at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Frykberg knows all about the importance of exercising. In late 2019, he completed a full Ironman in Australia and was training to do multiple half-triathlons before COVID-19.
A good friend and former teammate of Dr. Frykberg’s was complaining of knee pain. He was a world-class runner who had logged more than 30,000 miles. He was expecting to hear that he would need knee replacements. However, when the X-rays came back, his knees were perfect —some of the best Dr. Frykberg had seen.
“Movement is everything,” said Dr. Frykberg. “Exercising on a daily basis, whether it’s walking, swimming, running or cycling, helps you maintain a healthy weight and causes your body to create hyaluronic acid, which acts as a lubricant for your joints and bones. Think of it like motor oil in a car. It improves the overall function of your body.”
If you are too sedentary, your body will not produce enough hyaluronic acid, which can result in friction in your joints and damage your knees and hips more than normal when you decide to begin an exercise program. If you aren’t exercising daily, Dr. Frykberg suggests starting out slowly and building up as you get in better shape to avoid injury.
“If you feel pain, take a few days to recover. Don’t continue to exercise or fight through the pain because it could get worse,” said Dr. Frykberg. “If you are experiencing pain, you should ice the injury, gently stretch, massage that area and elevate it.”
My knees, hips and joints haven’t yet logged 30,000 miles, but now I am not afraid to try to get there knowing that movement and exercise can improve my joints, muscles and bones. Just like Forrest Gump, I’m going to keep running.