Runners have less arthritis (not more) and weight is a major factor
PainSci summary of Williams 2013?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focussed on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for larger and better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
This analysis of about a zillion runners versus walkers found that “running significantly reduced arthritis and hip replacement risk”…but due in large part to the fact that runners were typically skinnier. So weight was a trump factor here.
This data flies in the face of the common assumption that running is much harder on the joints. Instead, what it clearly shows is that running is either neutral or helpful, and weight is a much more important factor regardless of whether you walk or run.
PURPOSE: Running and other strenuous sports activities are purported to increase osteoarthritis (OA) risk, more so than walking and less-strenuous activities. Analyses were therefore performed to test whether running, walking, and other exercise affect OA and hip replacement risk and to assess the role of body mass index (BMI) in mediating these relationships.
METHODS: In this article, we studied the proportional hazards analyses of patients' report of having physician-diagnosed OA and hip replacement versus exercise energy expenditure (METs).
RESULTS: Of the 74,752 runners, 2004 reported OA and 259 reported hip replacements during the 7.1-yr follow-up; whereas of the 14,625 walkers, 696 reported OA and 114 reported hip replacements during the 5.7-yr follow-up. Compared with running <1.8 MET·h·d, the risks for OA and hip replacement decreased as follows: 1) 18.1% (P = 0.01) and 35.1% (P = 0.03) for the 1.8- and 3.6-MET·h·d run, respectively; 2) 16.1% (P = 0.03) and 50.4% (P = 0.002) for the 3.6- and 5.4-MET·h·d run, respectively; and 3) 15.6% (P = 0.02) and 38.5% (P = 0.01) for the ≥5.4-MET·h·d run, suggesting that the risk reduction mostly occurred by 1.8 MET·h·d. Baseline BMI was strongly associated with both OA (5.0% increase per kilogram per square meter, P = 2 × 10) and hip replacement risks (9.8% increase per kilogram per square meter, P = 4.8 × 10), and adjustment for BMI substantially diminished the risk reduction from running ≥1.8 MET·h·d for OA (from 16.5%, P = 0.01, to 8.6%, P = 0.21) and hip replacement (from 40.4%, P = 0.005, to 28.5%, P = 0.07). The reductions in OA and hip replacement risk by exceeding 1.8 MET·h·d did not differ significantly between runners and walkers. Other (nonrunning) exercise increased the risk of OA by 2.4% (P = 0.009) and hip replacement by 5.0% per MET·h·d (P = 0.02), independent of BMI.
CONCLUSIONS: Running significantly reduced OA and hip replacement risk due to, in part, running's association with lower BMI, whereas other exercise increased OA and hip replacement risk.
These four articles on PainScience.com cite Williams 2013 as a source:
- PS Is Running on Pavement Risky? — Hard-surface running may be risk factor for running injuries like patellofemoral pain, IT band syndrome, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis
- PS The Trouble with Chairs — The science of being sedentary and how much it does (or doesn’t) affect your health and back pain
- PS Save Yourself from IT Band Syndrome! — All your treatment options for Iliotibial Band Syndrome reviewed in great detail, with clear explanations of recent scientific research supporting every key point
- PS Save Yourself from Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome! — Patellofemoral pain syndrome (aka runner’s knee) explained and discussed in great detail, including every imaginable self-treatment option and all the available scientific evidence