People are still often warned against running because it is “bad” for the joints. That’s nonsense – new studies show it. Regular exercise can prevent pain in old age.

A few years ago I was plagued by persistent hip pain. It was a dull, uncomfortable feeling that somehow tugged at my thighs. I tried stretching and then some pain relieving ointment. When nothing helped, I made an appointment with an orthopedist. He was still one of the old school, as I quickly realized. Before he even looked at my leg, he had to get an x-ray. And just one look was enough for him to say, “You should stop running. Now, your joint space is way too narrow.” I was so taken by surprise at the time that I couldn’t think of anything else. And I left the practice completely distraught.

Luckily with a referral to a physiotherapist – because he solved my pain problem within three sessions. Unlike my doctor, he took a close look at the muscles and found that I had a deep-seated cramp. Once that was resolved, the pain was gone. So healed, I decided to ignore the orthopedist’s warning and kept walking. Since then, easily 15 years have passed. I have never had hip pain since. And I don’t have the artificial hip joint that was threatened at the time either.

Don’t run – this is to protect the joints

But as a runner, I’m still often confronted with questions from friends who assume that the impact of running causes severe damage to the joints. And also many who have decided for themselves as a result of self-diagnosis: “I can’t walk, my joints can’t stand it.”

In most cases, however, they are wrong. The fact is – and this has now been proven in numerous studies – that if we walk “reasonably”, there is no risk of joint wear. On the contrary: there are indications that running actually strengthens the joints. And so the risk of needing an artificial joint replacement is lower than for inactive people. The basis is that you wear suitable shoes during training, do not overload yourself and also incorporate alternative training into your movement plan.

Then it doesn’t matter whether you walk on soft forest ground or hard asphalt. The body seems to have very good mechanisms to regulate impact with the ground. And the bones even benefit from the impact of impact, they are strengthened. That is why many experts consider running to be a very good protection against osteoporosis.

Too much weight damages the joints

The greatest risk factor for joint wear and tear is obesity. A problem that only a few runners have. Interestingly, inactivity in obese people leads to joint problems. If you sit a lot with too much fat, you have a 45 percent increased risk of osteoarthritis. I once met a doctor doing research who told me he replaced more joints in people because they weren’t moving than in people who were moving.

The University of Portsmouth recently published the results of a study with 5802 participants aged 50 and over. They followed the subjects for ten years and came to the conclusion that regular running or walking led to significantly less joint and muscle pain – a widespread and difficult-to-treat clinical picture in old age. To get the full beneficial effect, training had to be done at least once a week and the load had to be high. Moderate training such as walking, on the other hand, was significantly less effective.

Also interesting: Even marathon runs don’t seem to damage the joints. According to a study by the University of Heidelberg, even these would not have an increased risk of osteoarthritis. But you have to be careful if you get injured. For example, if you don’t properly heal a twisted ankle or a ligament injury, you risk permanent damage to the corresponding joints. A risk that is also taken by those who neglect to strengthen their muscles and ligaments. The leg muscles in particular play an important role in terms of joint health.