Running, osteoarthritis, and bone density: initial 2-year longitudinal study

Am J Med. 1990 May;88(5):452-9. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(90)90422-a.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to present the 2-year follow-up results examining associations of repetitive long-term physical impact (running) with osteoarthritis and osteoporosis in 34 members of a running club now aged 52 to 74 years and 34 matched control subjects.

Patients and methods: Roentgenograms of the hands, lateral lumbar spine, and knees were assessed in pairs (1984 and 1986) without knowledge of running status. Computerized scans of the first lumbar vertebrae were obtained to quantify bone mineral.

Results: A decrease in bone density over the 2-year period was statistically significant for nearly all subjects, especially for runners who decreased their running habits. At the 2-year follow-up, runners maintained greater bone density. Progression of the roentgenographic scores for osteoarthritis demonstrated a statistically significant increase in almost all groups in this normative population over the 2-year period. Female runners had more spur formation in the weight-bearing knee roentgenograms than did control subjects.

Conclusion: With the possible exception of spur formation in women, running did not appear to influence the development of radiologic osteoarthritis in the populations studied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hand / diagnostic imaging
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*
  • Radiography
  • Running*
  • Sex Factors
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging