Is Running Associated with Osteoarthritis? An Eight-Year Follow-up Study

J Clin Rheumatol. 1995 Feb;1(1):35-9. doi: 10.1097/00124743-199502000-00008.


Recreational exercise programs, particularly running, remain popular for a variety of reasons. It has been estimated that as many as 20 to 30 million Americans exercise, and that this includes perhaps 5 to 15 million runners/joggers. Until recently, scant information was available regarding long-term effects, if any, of exercise on the musculoskeletal system. We, and others, therefore studied and reported our observations on the possible association of the development of lower extremity osteoarthritis (OA) in runners. This eight-year, follow-up study of our original 18 nonrunners and 17 runners obtained information on 16 runners (12 of whom were re-examined) and 13 nonrunners (10 of whom were re-examined) in 1992. One runner was deceased (cancer), 14/15 were exercising, 11/15 were running, and 3/15 were engaged in other recreational exercises. In 1992, as in 1984, pain, swelling, and range of motion of hips, knees, ankles, and feet were comparable for runners and nonrunners, and radiographic examinations (for osteophytes, cartilage thickness, and grade of OA) of hips, knees, ankles, and feet were without notable differences between groups. Thus, we did not find an increased prevalence of OA among our runners, now in their seventh decade. These observations support the suggestion that running need not be associated with predisposition to OA of the lower extremities.