Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Can running actually be good for your knees?

Have you heard about this new study released by The American College of Sports Medicine?  Daily Spark blog writer Jen Mueller summarized some of the info below, and there is also a link to the report!  
The American College of Sports Medicine has released a new report that examines the effects of exercise on the knee joint. Previous research has looked at the impact of physical activity on the knee as a whole, but this is the first study to look at its effect on individual parts of the knee. The research found that exercise affects each part of the knee differently, which might explain why previous studies have produced conflicting results.

The report looked at data from 28 previous studies which involved almost 10,000 participants. These previous studies all looked at the relationship between osteoarthritis of the knee and physical activity. "According to the team’s findings, while exercise was linked to osteophytes, or bony spurs, there were no detrimental changes to joint space, the place where cartilage is housed. There were beneficial effects on cartilage integrity, with evidence of greater volumes and fewer defects." This means that exercise actually helped improve the cartilage in between joints instead of breaking it down.

Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints- in this case, the knees. It can cause joint pain, stiffness, swelling and other problems that limit mobility. Interested in learning more about this condition and how exercise can help? Check out our Osteoarthritis Condition Center for more information. 

--Jen Mueller

From IPTC:
Do you get knee pain when you run?  Keep in mind that your form when running will affect how your joint absorbs the shock.  Form can be affected by muscle strength, shoes, and your stride when running.  Be sure you purchase shoes that give your feet support in the places appropriate for your own body.  The way your feet strike will affect how your knees, pelvis, spine, and neck take all the shock of your run. 

It's also important to equally strengthen all the muscles that support your knees.  Pilates is a great complement to running (or any sport!) because we focus on restoring balance to all the muscles.  This keeps the joints in a neutral position so your body doesn't get more wear and tear on one part of the joint than another; keeping the joints in a neutral position will reduce the likelihood of injury and pain!
Your quadriceps (on the front of the thigh) are made up of 4 different muscles, all of which give support to your knee.  Especially important are the Vastii muscles on the inside and outside of your thigh.  Many people are much stronger on the outside (or lateral) side of the thigh in the vastus lateralis.  Training the inside muscle (or medial) which is your vastus medialis to fire at the same time as your vastus lateralis will keep your kneecap centered on your knee rather than pulling it to one side or the other.  Taking a moment to stretch these muscles after a workout or to roll them out on a foam roller or tennis ball will keep the muscles more pliable and supple as well.  

Your hamstrings (on the back of the thigh) are made up of 3 different muscles, all of which give support to your knee as well.  If your knees push past a straight position into hyperextension, it is beneficial to strengthen the hamstrings so the knee joint will be supported in a neutral position.  It is also beneficial to stretch these muscles after a workout so they are less prone to injury.

Your glute muscles (on your seat) also give a lot of support to your knees.  There are 3 glute muscles:  gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.  The gluteus medius and minimus (these are your abductors) are more towards the outside of your hip, and they help keep your knee from falling in during your gait when walking or running.  They also stabilize through your pelvis which will help absorb shock in your hips and spine.  

Inner Thighs
Your inner thighs (these are your adductors) also help keep your knee in line with your hip and ankle when balanced with your gluteus medius and minimus (abductors).  These muscles work to prevent your knee from falling out during your stride.  

If you can complement your running with Pilates 2-3 times per week, we think you will feel a big difference in your strength, endurance, and joint health!  Are you a runner?  Has Pilates made a difference in your running?  Please share with us in the comments!  

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