Northside Hospital - Running from arthritis

Running from arthritis

Running and other high-impact exercises were once thought to be the major cause of arthritis. We now know that’s not completely true. 

In fact, it may be the lack of physical exercise that can lead to worsening arthritic symptoms. When pain strikes in a hip, knee, ankle or other joint, human nature is to want to avoid doing things that could aggravate the pain. Although that seems logical, this inactivity could actually exacerbate the condition by leading to muscle atrophy and joint stiffness. 

For those experiencing arthritic pain, frequent walks or occasional runs prescribed by a trusted doctor and possibly with a trainer’s help can be a good first step to help ease the pain and improve symptoms, including inflammation. 

What’s the magic number for daily steps? 

Many people have been told they need 10,000 steps a day, but recent evidence shows that just 6,000 steps per day, or roughly three miles, is the perfect number.  If you’re starting off, aim for 3,000 steps and gradually increase your steps. The more you walk or run, the better off you may be.

How can a runner and walkers ward off arthritis?

While its specific cause is only now being understood, obesity, aging, anatomy, genetics and prior injuries are all culprits in the onset of arthritis. Runners and walkers who keep the pounds off and instead pound the sidewalk are doing themselves a lot of good if done smartly. A study published in the Arthritis Research & Therapy found that some runners in their 60s, 70s and older, who ran an average of 26 miles a week experienced 25 percent less pain than those who were inactive. However, it may differ among individual runners with arthritis; a more moderate 6-10 miles per week in addition to cycling or other cross training may be more beneficial.

Am I going to cause wear and tear on my joints?

Running and walking is good for the health of your joints because it keeps the muscles strong and well balanced. But make sure you’ve got the proper shoes and that you understand proper running form.

How does exercise help the arthritis sufferer?

Running and other proper exercise helps build muscles that dynamically protect against joint damage associated with common types of arthritis and the resultant pain and stiffness. Arthritis sufferers who maintain a good range of motion in their joints will allow them to move less stiffly and with less pain and fight back against the progression of arthritis.

And always aim for intelligent, regular and moderate pain-free exercise.


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