By Emma Maaranen
Today the Wasatch 100 ultra marathon started and many of the Focus Bodywork community are running or pacing for this event. Over coffee this morning I overheard some ladies mocking the competitors, stating, “They are ruining their knees, none of [them] will be able to walk when they are in their 70’s.” Let’s debunk this notion. When comparing the knees of seniors over a 10-year period (age ranges from 50-80, in 10-year increments) who live a sedentary lifestyle, who run an average of 20 miles a week, and those who live active life styles (elevated heart rate for an hour at least five days a week), it was found that the most degeneration of knee joint tissues were in the sedentary population. As one would expect, mild changes were seen in the active group, but surprisingly the running population showed increased health of their knees over the 10 year period! Source: Long Distance Running and Knee Osteoarthritis When researchers looked at seven marathoners over a 10-year period, they found only one study participant who experienced significant degeneration of his knees, which lead him to quit running during the study. However, he had a significant preexisting knee pathology prior to the study and quit running mid-way through the 10-year study period. The other six runners showed no signs of new damage to their knees during the study period. Source: Knee Joints of Runners These are just two recent studies, and more data is needed to confirm that running is, in fact, good for your knees, but as a runner myself this gives me and my knees hope. The message here is that if your knees are healthy, there is no reason to expect they will deteriorate under thoughtful run training over a lifetime. An active knee is more likely to stay healthy as you age than a sedentary one. And maybe, just maybe, running will reduce your chances or severity of osteoarthritis as you age. Of course, if you have significant knee history, running may not be the best choice for you. So cheer on all the ultra marathoners out there tonight running up and over the Wasatch Mountains who inspire our athletic spirits and may be adding to the well-being of their knees while they do it.