In the clinic it is quite common to hear statements such as this: “I have been told I shouldn’t run anymore
because of my arthritis” or “I have arthritis because I did too much sport when I was younger”.

Arthritis creates a lot of fear amongst people and is based on the misinformation that a life full of exercise and physical activity causes ‘wear and tear’ on the knee joint.

The short answer is that this is simply NOT true. Osteoarthritis is a complex inflammatory condition that is associated with many psychosocial and genetic factors.

Osteoarthritis is a common condition affecting over 3.6 million Australians which equates to 1 in 7 people.
As our population grows this figure is expected to rise to 5.4 million by 2030 (Arthritis Australia 2022).

What is it?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of the entire joint, including the gradual degradation of cartilage lining the knee joint, remodelling of the bone, increased joint ligament laxity and fluid build up causing pain, stiffness and a loss of mobility (Arthritis Foundation 2023).

According to current research, the only evidenced based risk factors of OA are…

Does running cause OA?
A study conducted in 2017 found that recreational runners had lower rates of hip and knee OA (3.5%)
compared with non-runners (10.2%) and elite competitive runners (13.3%). The presence of arthritis
amongst elite athletes is likely associated with the increased prevalence of major injury requiring surgery
and high intensity nature of competition (Alentorn-Geli et al., 2017).

Furthermore a study conducted in USA followed 45 long-distance recreational runners and 53 non-runners with an average age of 58 years old. These participants were followed for 18 years and had regular xrays throughout this period. Results from this study demonstrated that runners knees DID NOT display more arthritis than the non-running group (Chakravarty et al 2008).

So the bottom line is, if you enjoy going for your regular run and you want to continue running. Lace up your shoes and get out there!

Can I still run if I have OA?
Even if you have been diagnosed with knee OA, there is still no need to become despondent towards
running. There is extensive and reliable evidence that suggests physical exercise including running can be a valuable tool in reducing the symptoms associated with OA as well as slowing its progression. Another scientific study found there was a 54% reduction in the need for knee surgery amongst patients with arthritis who engaged in regular running exercise compared to patients who did not run (Timmins, K 2017).

Not only is running an effective tool for osteoarthritis, it also has a myriad of other health benefits which
inadvertently reduces the symptoms of OA. For example, as a weight bearing exercise, running can help to build strong muscles and bones which is vital for healthy ageing and reducing effects of
osteopenia/osteoporosis. Similarly, running improves your cardiac health by improving your endurance and cardiovascular fitness all the while helping to burn excess calories to maintain a healthy weight.

Regular exercise such as running also significantly improves mental health, self-confidence, healthy
ageing, and quality of life.

Bottom Line = YES!

So whatever stage you are at in life, running can be a safe exercise that can be enjoyed and maintained
whether you have osteoarthritis or not. But, like all forms of exercise, it is important to be guided by your
physiotherapist, so that you can ensure you have correct technique, strength, coordination and balance to get the most out of your running.

Feel free to organise a time to chat to any of our physiotherapists including Fraser Goy; a qualified
physiotherapist and recreational running coach through Athletics Victoria.

Written by Fraser Goy