Runners, you may not actually be pounding your joints to a pulp every time you hit the pavement.
A new small study shows that running can actually help reduce inflammation in your knees. Researchers from Brigham Young University tested blood and knee joint fluid sample before and after healthy runners ran for 30 minutes on a treadmill. They were also tested while they were inactive.
The samples taken after running showed an decreased presence of pro-inflammatory markers after 30 minutes.
“I think, and hope, the data shows that running is good for your joints,” researcher Matt Seeley told Time. “Although the results are limited, they are also unexpected and could be important.”
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Seeley said that because the sample size was small, with complete information from only six of the 15 participants, more research is needed to ensure the results hold. But researchers were surprised that there was a decrease in inflammation after running.
“We expected the molecules to increase, but it was the opposite,” Seeley said.
The study cannot suggest long-distance running is safe, because participants were only tested after 30 minutes of running. Runners can suffer from arthritis if their cartilage gradually wears away after years of pounding.
The researchers did find that sitting made knees more vulnerable, instead of protecting them from degeneration.
Previous studies have also suggested running could actually be beneficial for your knees. Some scientists believe that because runners generally weigh less than non-runners, running can reduce your risk of knee arthritis because they have less weight to carry.
A 2013 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found “no evidence that running increase the risk of osteoarthritis” among the nearly 75,000 runners it tracked over seven years. It suggests that bodies are able to compensate for the stress placed on them by running and cartilage thickens in response to running.
“We’re not cars,” Paul Williams, lead author of that stud, told GQ. “The more you run your car, you’re wearing out the bearings. The difference between a car and a person is it appears that when you’re doing that pounding and such, the body is actually putting more resources into your joints.”