A new study has found that running can help us look after our bones and joints – especially as we get older
There’s always been a lot of concern over runners’ joints, especially when it comes to the impact between our foot and the ground. With every strike, a force of approximately four times our body weight is put upon our knee, which has previously caused worry about the long-term impact of running on our bone health.
However, new research is suggesting that this type of load bearing is actually saving our joints, making them stronger and more able to handle day-to-day life – especially in older people.
The study, published in JBMR Plus, studied sprinters between 40 and 85 years of age. Through imaging of their tibial bones over 10 years, researchers were able to see that the athletes who had continued their running training consistently over the course of time had maintained or improved their bone strength, while those who had reduced their exercise levels experienced a loss of bone density.
This is fantastic – we know that, as we get older, poor bone health can cause myriad problems for our movement and overall wellbeing. It’s also a clear indication that we can continue running as long as we want to, without fear of negative effects on our joints. And you don’t need to be sprinting regularly for 10 years, like the participants, to see the benefits – previous research by the same team has noted improved bone health after just 20 weeks of regular running.
However, there are some things to note before you lace up your trainers. In all the studies around this topic, participants were also doing regular strength training sessions alongside their runs, which is another crucial aspect of bone health. You also need to create a base level of physical fitness and strength first, building up slowly to avoid injury, rather than jumping into a hectic running schedule. Finally, this particular study was done on men – the female version is already on its way, and we will of course be telling you all about it when it’s published.
For more information, check out our advice for older runners.