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Running is the most common form of exercise and one that everyone takes for granted. Things are slightly different when an individual has arthritis in their knee joints, one of the most common sites for osteoarthritis.  Common questions asked include: Should I stop exercising? Should I only exercise once a week? What else can I do to keep fit?

This article is aimed at regular runners and looks closely at what it is like to run with arthritis including 8 important tips that you can apply to your running to reduce the impact on your joints.

1. Running routine

It is important for you to analyze your running routine as too much stress, too frequently on your joints could make your arthritis worse. If you are a keen runner but have arthritis in your knees/hips, it is inadvisable for you to run 5 times a week! We would recommend that you only run 2-3 times a week and space these sessions out! Try combining your running with different, lighter weight loading intensity workouts such as the elliptical, cycling or even swimming to reduce the impact on your joints. This is especially good in the days between your running

2. Running surfaces

With arthritis in your knees, we would recommend that you stick to running surfaces that are softer to decrease the impact and strain on your joints.  Avoid running on hard roads and concrete and instead change your running routes to include different trails and routes which provide a softer surface or alternatively, run on a track

3. Stretching and warm-up 

It is paramount that you do sufficient stretching and a long warm up before running intensely. Stiff and cold muscles around you joint will exacerbate the arthritis

4. Pain free running

Vary the intensity of your running routine. If you are running at a high intensity pace that puts a heavy load on your joints causing pain, slow down! Start slow and build up to a comfortable moderate speed and try and maintain this for longer rather than increasing your speed. This will ensure less damage to your joints and also a quicker recovery time between runs

5. Stride length

There has been sufficient research in the field showing that a shorter, faster stride length helps to decrease the wear and tear associated with arthritis in your knee and hip joints compared to a longer one. This allows you to be lighter on your feet, with a lighter load on landing and a less opposite force travelling towards your knee

6. Consistency

It is very important that you stick to a routine and exercise consistently. Avoid long lay offs and intense runs especially directly after a lay off to avoid injury and worsening your arthritis

7. Diet

Believe it or not, your food intake plays a big part on the pain you experience when you are running with arthritis. Watch what you eat and try to keep a logbook if possible. Avoid processed food and stick to a ‘’low inflammatory diet’’ if at all possible

8. External aids

The use of external aids such as compression sleeves and braces can make a big difference in the stability of your joints when exercising, especially the knee joint. They provide the support that you need when a joint is weak, helps to decrease inflammation and also decreases load bearing on the weak joint, dissipating it across a large surface area. The Dr. Arthritis Knee Sleeve provides great support!

We hope the above tips are useful to you, especially if you are a runner with arthritis and experience pain when exercising. Remember to put them into practice and notice a difference with your running!    



Medically reviewed by Dr Adam Gunasekara. He is the Co-Founder of Doctor Arthritis. He graduated from The Imperial College London with an MBBS (MD) - The article was written by the Dr. Arthritis Editorial Team.

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