Our purpose was to determine the 5-year longitudinal effects of running and aging on the development of radiographic and clinical osteoarthritis (OA) of the knees, hands and lumbar spine. Thirty-five running subjects and 38 controls, with a mean age of 63 years, were matched for age (+/- 2 years), years of education, and occupation; 33 matched pairs were constructed. All subjects underwent rheumatologic examination, completed questionnaires, and had radiographs taken of the hands, lateral lumbar spine, and knees in 1984 and in 1989. Five year radiographic results for both the runner and control groups showed OA progression for the knees, hands, and lumbar spine. In 1989, 10 (13%) of the 73 subjects fit American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for clinical OA of the hand, and 9 subjects (12%) fit ACR criteria for OA of the knee. In summary, running did not accelerate the development of radiographic or clinical OA of the knees, but with aging, 13% of all subjects developed OA of the hands and 12% of all subjects developed OA of the knees.