running-healthSport England estimate that around 2 million of us run for at least 30 minutes each week in a bid to get fit and enjoy the great British outdoors.  Whilst I’m sure most people associate running with health and wellbeeing, might it in actual fact be storing up health problems for us in the future?

A new study, conducted in association with Arthritis Research UK, aims to test whether running might actually contribute towards osteoarthritis in the knee as we age.

To do so, the research team have recruited thousands of participants in park run events held across the country each week.  The study, which will be conducted over the next 15 years, will follow volunteer participants to test the impact their running has on their knees as they age.

A fundamental strength of the study will be the huge ammount of data collected on participants, which provides a distinct advantage over previous, smaller studies.

“For example, many individuals believe that running will have a detrimental effect on their knees, yet the balance of previous research suggests that this is not necessarily the case. However, these were small investigations and a large study is needed. Additionally, in an ageing society, with increasing obesity and sedentary lifestyles, it is clear that a greater understanding in this area would be beneficial to the overall population,” Dr Kim Edwards, the research lead, says.

Putting running to the test

The study aims to recruit at least 1% of the 800,000 or so participants in park run events in the UK, with another group recruited from Australia.  There will also be several hundred sedentary participants recruited to act as a control group.

“It is really important that physical activity is encouraged within our society. Our research seeks to identify the short and long-term outcomes associated with recreational running. In doing so we wish to identify the benefits, particularly in relation to musculoskeletal health, so that people of all ages can participate safely,” researcher Richard Leech says.

Each participant will be required to complete questionnaires that explore their age, height, physical activity, general health, osteoarthritis and general knee pains and issues.  Particiapnts will be checked in on at yearly intervals for the next 15 years to see how their health progresses.

Hopefully, the study will provide a clear link between running and knee osteoarthritis, together with the impact other areas of our life, such as diet and physical activity, have on our risk of injury and disease.

“Generally, sport and exercise are very good for us, and it is vital that we continue to promote this important public health message. We want to understand the risk factors and, importantly, the protecting factors there may be in being active and exercising regularly,” Centre Director Professor Mark Batt, of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said.

Contact our research team if you would like to learn more about working with the university.