Biology

Running pounds down knee inflammation, says new study

Running pounds down knee infla...
Running might actually be good, not bad, for our knees
Running might actually be good, not bad, for our knees
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Running might actually be good, not bad, for our knees
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Running might actually be good, not bad, for our knees

While running for exercise is often lauded for the fact that it aids weight loss, improves cardiovascular and respiratory health and may even help reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, it sometimes gets a bad rap for being tough on the knees. All that pounding, the thinking goes, can inflame and take its toll on the cartilage in the knee joint. A new study out of Brigham Young University, however, shows that running can actually do the opposite and ratchet down knee inflammation.

In the small study, researchers took fluid, known as synovial fluid, from the knee joints of six healthy people between the ages of 18-35 both before and after running. They looked for two inflammation markers known as GM-CSF and IL-15, which are cytokines – messenger proteins secreted by cells. Some cytokines have anti inflammatory properties but the two measured in this study have the opposite effect, causing inflammation in the body.

After the study participants ran for 30 minutes, the researchers found that levels of both GM-CSF and IL-15 had decreased in the synovial fluid, meaning that the inflammatory response was actually lowered.

"What we now know is that for young, healthy individuals, exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health," said study lead author Robert Hyldahl, BYU assistant professor of exercise science.

Additionally, Hyldahl added that his study revealed that rather than contributing to arthritis, as is sometimes believed, running can be considered "chondroprotective," meaning that it prevents joint-space narrowing and might delay the onset of painful and degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis.

"This study does not indicate that distance runners are any more likely to get osteoarthritis than any other person," Seeley said. "Instead, this study suggests exercise can be a type of medicine."

The researchers are now expanding their research to subjects with previous knee injuries. Their work has been published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Source: Brigham Young University

3 comments
Brian M
Conclusion is based on short periods of running (30mins), using only GM-CSF and IL-15 markers, with a very limited age group 18-35, worse with a sample size of just 6 (really publishing on that number of subjects!) at what appears to be one session per subject(?). Any damage due to running as a regular exercise is a long term issue (read years). So concluding anything from this study would be irresponsible to say the least!
PAV
I will say that the more I exercise my damaged knees, (with support braces attached) the less the swelling and inflammation. I used to be in pain for the rest of the day and into the next, but now I am virtually pain free.
Sage Mike
A great article - thank you New Atlas. Running is a fantastic way to see the world and get some fresh air at the start of each day. It is also a great remedy for occasional over indulgence. At 61 yr, I've been running almost daily for more than 45 years, and remain pretty much pain free despite some sports and workplace injuries. The secret seems to be replacing your running shoes and socks before they are worn-out and avoiding running on concrete unnecessarily. Far too many people avoid running under the belief that it might wear down their knees. (I'd rather wear out than rust out!) I for one, hope to continue running for another 10-15 years.