Have you ever avoided certain types of exercises because you were convinced that they were bad for your knees? It is pretty common for high impact exercises to be linked with knee problems, like osteoarthritis. But now, a recently released UK study upends that thinking. Exercise might not be bad for your knees after all – at least in terms of causing osteoarthritis.
High impact exercises certainly can have an effect on bones, joints, and muscles. That is why organizations like Salt Lake City’s Mcycle studio recommend low-impact exercise. Mcycle’s indoor cycling classes offer all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise without putting undue stress on the ankles, knees, and hips. Still, that doesn’t mean high impact exercise is inherently bad.
A Meta-Analysis of Thousands
The study in question was designed to determine if existing data establishes a clear link between exercise and osteoarthritis. Researchers analyzed data from six previous studies covering a total of 5,065 participants who were tracked for between five and twelve years. All the participants were over forty-five.
Key to this particular meta-analysis was the decision to go back and start with participant baseline data and analyze it all simultaneously. Doing so accommodated many of the differences between the individual studies, giving researchers a foundation on which to build their analysis.
In the end, their analysis established no link between exercise and developing osteoarthritis. It is important to note that none of the participants had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis prior to the start of their respective studies. Therefore, the lack of a significant increase in osteoarthritis cases among the test group would indicate no link between exercise and arthritis in the knees.
Knee Problems Are Still Possible
Regular exercisers can take comfort in the fact that their chosen activities are unlikely to lead to osteoarthritis in the knees. However, knee problems are still possible. Furthermore, those who already have osteoarthritis can exacerbate the condition by participating in high impact exercises.
Runners who consistently experience knee pain not associated with osteoarthritis can look at other culprits, including ligaments and tendons. They could also look into transitioning to a low impact alternative. Outdoor and indoor cycling are good alternatives.
Knee pain caused by some sort of minor injury can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications and physical therapy. Whether or not a person returns to high impact exercise after completing treatment is probably a decision left to that person and their doctor.
Whatever Exercise Works
The lesson in all of this is that people do not necessarily have to be afraid of osteoarthritis. They certainly shouldn’t avoid exercise because they fear it’s bad for their knees. According to the UK research, there is no established link between exercise and developing osteoarthritis. And even if researchers missed something, low-impact exercise reduces any risks that might actually exist.
In the end, it is best to embrace whatever exercise works. Maybe running isn’t your thing. Perhaps walking doesn’t get your heart working hard enough. You can try cycling, rowing, or swimming. If you prefer an actual sport with rules and defined outcomes, your options are numerous. You can try tennis, pickle ball, golf, racquetball, and so on.
Do yourself a favor and do not avoid exercise because you are afraid it is going to ruin your knees. Chances are it will not. If anything, exercise that engages the lower body is more likely to strengthen your knees over time. The only exception here is existing osteoarthritis. If you already have the disease, you may have to take it easy on your knees. Low-impact exercise will be the best option for you.