Save Your Joints from Old Age
Hit the trails now for healthy joints later. Researchers tracked 75,000 runners and 15,000 walkers over 7 years and found that running decreases your risk of osteoarthritis—the joint-degenerating condition most likely to put you in a wheelchair when you're older—and cuts your chances of needing hip replacement surgery in half.
The beneficial effects of running are twofold. For one, your body adapts to a briskly-paced run by building cartilage in your joints and, crucially, maintaining levels of proteoglycans in that cartilage, which allows your joints to be both cushioned and lubricated. Second, although most people gain weight as they age thanks to a slowing metabolism, in runners that weight gain is lowered by as much as 50 percent, which further reduces the strain on your joints, says lead researcher Paul Williams, Ph.D., of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
So how much do you need to run? Not far at all, it turns out. Williams found the biggest joint-protective benefits in runners who averaged between 1 and 2.2 miles per day, or around 8 to 15 miles per week, but that doesn't mean you need to limit yourself to short distances. “You can exceed the current recommendations of 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, and there are other health benefits that continue to accrue up to 30 miles per week,” Williams says. In a separate study, his lab also found that running is just as helpful as walking in preventing heart arrhythmias, which can lead to stroke or heart failure.
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