Quite often I have people say to me ” Oh I can’t run – my knees hurt” or “But don’t your knees get sore?” or “Your knees won’t thank you when you get old!” Get old?! I am not exactly young now my friends. And on the whole my knees don’t hurt. This post is going to be a little bit about older runners, and then knees. Scrolling through the news apps today (quick! avoid the B word!) I found this wonderful news about a running heroine of mine Jo Pavey. I think it’s fantastic that she is going for another Olympics. It shows that running is as much about mental attitude as about fitness. (Although obviously that helps.)
Then on a social media site I was led to an article about a 70 year old marathoner – a record breaking woman who is inspiration to her granddaughters. I wonder if anyone told her that running was bad for her knees? I can imagine her answer!
Older people (over 65) typically spend a lot of time inactive – maybe 10+ hours a day. This increases your risk of health problems according to this NHS website. The message is loud and clear – keep active if you want to keep going! But surely not running? Won’t your knees get wrecked?
It seems that although it is a very commonly held belief that running ruins your knees the picture is far from clear. This study looking at the association of knee osteoarthritis (OA) and running points out that the multifactorial aetiology of OA makes untangling cause and effect in running/knee pain difficult. But: Нere is no evidence for advancing knee OA in active people who does exercise. Нis is true in the case of long distant runners. Evidences support the role of exercise in improving musculoskeletal disability, pain and functional capacity. [sic] Sorry about the spellings! The researchers also found that runners had a 50% lower chance of knee replacement, and – very important! – injury was a predictor of knee OA in runners.
Prevention of injury is paramount in prevention of pain and long-term problems. The key is to start off running training slowly, wear proper running shoes and do strength exercises and stretches alongside your running. A lot of people ignore this, which will almost certainly lead to problems, especially if you are a bit older when you start the running adventure! I highly recommend this NHS website for knee specific exercises.
I have only ever had one episode of really bad knee pain – unfortunately it happened at about mile 6 of a (26 mile) marathon… I have no idea why then and there – it was not OA related but something to do with the iliotibial band. Never happened since! I did just keep going at the time (not a lot of choice really) and felt a lot of sympathy for another runner I saw later hobbling with an icepack strapped to his knee.
I intend to carry on running – and going to the local outdoor gym Quit the Gym to do plenty of squats, lunges, frog jumps, calf stretches, core strength training etc etc to keep my knees strong!