You’ve probably heard that running is bad for your knees, but did you know that the opposite is true? Running is actually good for the cartilage in your knees and the discs in your back.
Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London performed an experimental study on cow joints, and they wanted to see what happens when you mechanically load these joints over and over. What would this stimulus do to the cells?
Mechanical loading of your joints actually suppresses the inflammatory response that any kind of injury might happen when you exercise hard. There are parts of the cells in your cartilage called the “primary cilia”, and when these hair-like cilia are stretched and compressed, they release cell proteins that help with the healing process. Squishing your joints stimulates protein production for joint health, and reduces inflammatory chemicals.
This makes perfect sense, though. Our bodies are made to move through over 100 years of life. We wear and we tear. If we broke down our cartilage caps on our knees through physical activity without any rebuilding process, we probably wouldn’t make it though childhood without being crippled.
We need to move. This study is looking at the effects of movement on your cartilage, but other studies have shown benefits of movement to the discs in your back, your muscle health, and your nervous system health. Every movement that you do, your nervous system receives signals that integrates all incoming information into an elevated state in your brain. Movement enhances your awareness of all that is going on around you. Movement makes you smarter. Go for a run! Your muscles release healing hormones every time you move, too. Muscle contraction under a moderate load releases chemicals called myokines, which will also reduce inflammation and improve cellular activity.
Su Fu, one of the authors of the study said, “We have known for some time that healthy exercise is good for you–now we know the process through which exercise prevents cartilage degeneration.” And, one of the professors added, “These findings may also explain the anti-inflammatory effects of normal blood flow in arteries which is important for preventing arterial disease such as atherosclerosis and aneurism.” If getting your blood pumping helps improve the health of your arteries, then that is just one more reason added to the long list of benefits for exercise on a daily basis.
It is my belief that running is a celebration of what your body is capable of doing. If you can’t run very far or for very long, then you can walk-run. If you can’t run at all, then you can walk. If walking is difficult, then slowly work on your stamina. Increase your duration so you can challenge yourself. your body is thirsty for this kind of stimulation.