Does Running and Walking Increase the Risk of Developing Osteoarthritis and Hip Replacement

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Does Running and Walking Increase the Risk of Developing Osteoarthritis and Hip Replacement

Article from June 27, 2014 by Andrew Foehrkolb

Frequently I am asked by clients if walking and running increases the risk of developing arthritis in the hip and possibly lead to hip replacement surgery since I recommend that all of my clients walk or run at least 3 times per week for an hour per session. As a runner and walker I too am keenly interested in this topic. There seems to be a common perception that running contributes to joint injuries.

Paul Williams Ph.D. of the Life Science Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researched this topic and published the results in Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise 2013 (1). Dr. Williams evaluated the National Runners’ and Walkers Health Studies which is currently the largest study to evaluate the health benefits and risks of physical activity. This study collected data from over 90,000 runners and walkers from 1991-1994 and 1998-2001. The participants were asked if they had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the hip by a medical professional and if they had hip replacement surgery. The data from this study provides an opportunity to see if there is a link between osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk by running, walking and other exercise. Duration, intensity and frequency were calculated for both the walkers and runners. Marathoners and distance runners also participated in the study.

OK -let’s get right to the conclusion of the study. Running and walking significantly reduced osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. Why- because the runners and walkers generally weighed less than the regular population. Surprisingly, some exercises increased the chances of developing osteoarthritis and hip replacement. Soccer players and power weight lifters had twice the incidences of hip osteoarthritis than runners (2). With the onset of middle age weight gain usually occurs and this increase in weight has been associated with hip replacement. Walkers and runners who exercised more than 7 hours per week were able to maintain their body weight and thus reduced the chances of developing osteoarthritis and the need for hip replacement surgery. The take away from this study is that a well-designed walking and running program accompanied with functional strength and balance training is one of the keys to health maintenance and it does not increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis of the hip or lead to hip replacement surgery. Weight gain does.

Drew Foehrkolb MS NASM CPT/CES Columbia Personal Training

(1) Williams, Paul., Effects of Running and Walking on Osteoarthritis and Hip Replacement Risk, Medicine & Science In Sports & Health, January 2013, DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182885f26

(2) Kujala UM, Kettunen, Paananen H, et. al. Knee osteoarthritis in former runners, soccer players, weight lifters, and shooters. Arthritis Rheum. 1995;38:539-46

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