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Report: Running and walking carry same physical impact

Last updated on April 23, 2015

A newly released study conducted by researchers out of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario shows that walking and running are not much different biomechanically — that is the force and the effect of these forces — on the body, specifically, on the knees.

It has long been thought that running had semi-disastrous effects on body joints, the knees in particular, and that running, or too much running, was a common culprit for the development of arthritis in the knees. However, this new research sheds a lot of light on this dimly lit topic and shows that this long-term belief may in fact, turn out to be a myth.

Up until now most people, especially non-runners, were under the impression that strenuous sports activities such as running were alleged to increase the risk of developing arthritis and in fact, essentially ruin the knees. In exchange, many opted for the less-strenuous version of walking, but according to the American College of Sports Medicine, running is in fact unlikely to contribute to the development of knee arthritis, ironically, due to all the running.

While there is no dispute that the body does experience pounding from running — eight times as much impact versus three times as much when walking — turns out that when people run, their feet hit the ground less often because their strides are longer. The result is fewer steps to cover the same distance as walkers.

Running also resulted in the feet making contact with the ground for shorter periods of time, concluding that the force that moves through the knees over an equal amount of distance is the same, whether a person is running or walking. While runners may generate more impact with the strides when compare to walkers, over an equivalent course, the overall load on the knees was nearly the same.

This now solves the running mystery as to why very few runners actually develop arthritis of the knees. The study, which included 75,000 runners, found that distant runners had an overall lessened risk of developing knee arthritis than less active people. Involved researchers from the University of Maryland say that, in terms of body wear and tear, it is virtually indistinguishable between walking and running.

Regardless of age, running can be a healthy activity. It’s important to note that while many runners do experience running-related knee injuries – patellofemoral pain syndrome or runner’s knee – this is completely unrelated to arthritis.


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