BYU research shows that running may prevent knee inflammation


BYU student, Abigail Crandall takes a jog around campus. Researchers at BYU have found running contributes to having healthy knees. (Maddi Driggs)



A team of professors and students from the Department of Exercise Science at BYU recently found scientific evidence to support the idea that running protects cartilage and prevents knee inflammation in healthy adults.

The pilot study was published Oct. 3, 2016 and released in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology” in Dec. 2016. The study included six subjects with no history of knee injury.

The purpose of this study was to see what happened inside the knee when someone ran. According to graduate student Alyssa Evans, the results of this project showed the possible mechanism for why running could be good for knees.

The subjects in the study had fluid taken from their knees before and after a 30 minute running period, and again after a controlled resting period. The fluid was then used to measure biomarkers, which are indicators that show what the knee is doing.

The results showed an increase in some of these cartilage protecting indicators after the exercise. Evans clarified that although the subject pool was small, the results were still significant enough to show that running is beneficial and prevents knee inflammation.

According to Dr. Eric Robinson, the medical consultant for the study, moderate exercise is known to be beneficial for the human body. He said even for those who have arthritis or other joint degeneration, exercising is a part of their health instructions.

Robinson often tells his patients that “motion is lotion.” When his patients become more sedentary, their conditions tend to get worse instead of improving.

BYU exercise science professor Sarah Ridge also referred to this concept.

“In order to get stronger physically — you could even make a case for emotionally and spiritually — you have to undergo some stress,” Ridge said.

Running has been linked to joint degeneration by some health professionals, despite the benefits of exercise. Robinson admitted the group’s original goal was to prove that theory.

“The thinking going into this is extensive running is harmful and causes degeneration to the knee,” Robinson said. “This is the first time that a study has sort of back tracked that feeling that certain exercises may precipitate arthritis . . . It was a little bit of a surprise to us.”

This is just the beginning of the story for the many researchers and professors who worked on the project. Evans said researchers are currently looking toward a new study that will examine the effects of running for people who have torn an ACL. Other future projects may look at the effect that running has on knees with inflammation or other injuries.

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