Answered by Emily Spilko on Monday, June 1, 2009
Besides the fact that running is not thought to be a cause of knee arthritis, it can benefit the health of the knees as part of a program of regular exercise, says Daniel Vigil, M.D., a team physician for USA Track & Field. "When runners say they're experiencing knee pain, most of the time running is not the culprit; some other component within the running routine is deficient in one way or another." Running on hard or sloped surfaces, running before your muscles are loose and warmed-up, or wearing the wrong kind of running shoes might be the cause of the problem, says Dr. Vigil. "Even for the overweight runner, a well-planned and carefully executed plan can result in miles of healthy, pain-free running." That plan, advises running coach Bob Glover, author of The Runner's Handbook, should begin first with walking or with non-weight-bearing aerobic exercises such as biking, swimming, or elliptical training. Because our feet hit the ground with three times our body weight when we run, Glover recommends beginning your running routine "on softer surfaces, such as a dirt trail, and be sure to pick up a suitable pair of running shoes—New Balance's 586 model has a lot of cushioning for bigger runners." Glover agrees that running, if taken up properly and safely, is a great form of exercise for people of any size. "There are many 200-plus-pound runners out there who run with minimal or no knee problems. Running is a great activity for losing and maintaining weight, but the secret to keeping yourself injury-free is to not do too much too soon." Glover stresses that if you are overweight, losing a few pounds will certainly minimize the potential for knee problems in the future.