Is Running Bad for Knees and Joints?

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Jack and Steve running

Jack and Steve running

I often get asked the question “is running bad for my knees?” or the similar, pet version, “Is running bad for my dog’s knees?” This is a hard question to answer specifically as all of our bodies and health and injury histories are unique. Yet, research supports the idea that if anything, running can reduce the chances of osteoarthritis (besides providing a myriad of other amazing health benefits).


Oh My Aching Knees

I have been running regularly for 30 years and for the most part, haven’t had knee problems. Ironically, I did sprain my knee 6 months ago, but this didn’t happen on a run. It happened while doing yoga. Yes, yoga did what running for 30 years couldn’t do: force me to cut back on my running/squatting/jumping, etc. As a result, I am much more careful with my yoga practice and have even eliminated some postures that feel anatomically incorrect for my body. And I am back running again (I never really stopped :-)) with relative impunity. In my opinion, running has helped me avoid knee injuries, not caused knee injuries.


Research on Runners and their Knees

Recent research supports my belief. As reported by the Washington Post, Paul Williams is an exercise scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who leads the National Runners’ Health Study and the National Walkers’ Health Study. These studies have recruited almost 90,000 runners and walkers and followed them since the studies began, in 1991 and 1997, respectively. In a 2013 paper published in the Journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Williams calculated rates of osteoarthritis and hip replacement among participants in his studies and found that runners were half as likely as walkers to develop osteoarthritis or need a hip replacement. Furthermore, runners who ran the most had the lowest risk of osteoarthritis.


Those are pretty impressive results and they support the idea that weight bearing exercise can strengthen the muscular-skeletal system so that the body is better able to deal with force from movement.   Like muscles, our bones and joints can and do respond to exercise by getting stronger and gain more mobility.


Another possible reason that runners are less likely to suffer from knee pain is due to the fact that runners tend to carry less fat than non-runners. Thus, their joints are not required to deal with the stress and extra load of carrying extra body weight around all day. These results don’t apply to just humans either, we can apply the same logic to your dogs.

Running so fast they're a blur...

Running so fast they’re a blur…


Running with your Dog

Convinced that running can be a safe exercise for you and your dog? Good. Ready to get out and start running? Not so fast. As with most things, creating a safe running program requires common sense and patience. Follow these 5 tips to make sure that you and your pet are able to run together for years to come.


    • Check with your vet and your doctor to make sure that it is safe to begin a running program with your dog.


    • Start slowly and build up speed and distance over time. Don’t go to far or too fast when you first start. Go slow, mix in walk breaks, and keep the distance under a mile at first. Slowly build up distance and reduce walk breaks as you both become more fit.


    • Learn to run with your dog on a leash. This is a skill that takes practice. Pick a side and train your dog to run on that side. This will help eliminate surprises.


    • Watch your diets. You both will need proper nutrition if you are engaging in a running program. For dogs, that means foods with some fat (which is their primary energy source). For both of you, switch to foods that contain minimal added sugars and artificial ingredients. Your bodies need fuel, not junk!


  • Enjoy! Running with your dog is fun and once you are in the routine, you both will feel and look better. Remember that dogs, like humans, get “runner’s high” from intense activities.


(Sorry the zoom is a little off)

FitDog Friday


Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!

Remember, the fun of a Blog Hop is to share our blogs and visit the other hoppers, so please hop around and say hello to everyone!


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  1. Fun!! And great tips as well for both dog & owner. We did a run last week for Paws on the Path – nearly killed me (joking) BUT my kids & Scooter loved it. Not ready to give the bike up just yet 😉 Happy FitDogging
    Paws and Pedals (Scooter & Kate) recently posted…Paws on the Path Dog Event – YAPS fundraiserMy Profile

  2. Mom says that over time, running does take a bit of a toll on joints and knees if you run a lot. Mom hurt her knee from running on a slanted surface but overall, she loves running and thinks it is the best exercise around. It is great for us dogs too.
    Emma recently posted…Studying Hard For Our ORT Test | GBGV | FitDog FridayMy Profile

  3. Thanks for the info. People who are runners really love it. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–Water DoubleMy Profile

  4. That is interesting. I happen to have bad knees (and have never been a runner – more of a genetic thing), so am scared of taking it up. Will have to think about it some more.
    Hailey and Zaphod recently posted…Feline Friday – Whose bed is it really?My Profile

  5. Hi Y’all!

    Unless my Human steps in a hole she doesn’t go fast enough to injure anything! I never get out of a jog when I stay with her. It’s more fun when I’m off lead and can race around her! and I do mean race around her!!! Besides, she’s always stoppin’ to take pictures. (I think she’s just stoppin’ ’cause she’s old and out of breath)

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Exercise…Exercise…My Profile

  6. Great post. I need to build myself up a little more. Last week I thought I should run with three dogs as they were pulling so bad and I needed oxygen and a day later my body hurt in spots that hadn’t hurt before and I thought it was because I added time to my walk. lol nope cuz I tried running. But me running doesn’t help glory with her pulling as she pulls more.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday~6 Dog Events To Keep Your Dog FitMy Profile

  7. Great info, so happy to read running doesn’t create extra stress on your dog’s knees! Kate the Kelpie and I are getting back into our trail running training ready for the season. Aside from the fitness and physical benefits, we are both sleeping better now we are back into our regular runs each night!
    Jen recently posted…Win one of five K9 Master Class Training ProgramsMy Profile

  8. Back in December, I fell and broke my kneecap. Just one of those stupid things that happen in life. So of course I’ve had lots of x-rays taken during the healing process. At 54 yo, the x-rays revealed no arthritis in my knee joint whatsoever. While not a runner, I have always maintained a low weight and been very active. Obviously that has paid off! Sadly, according to the osteo-doctor, I will probably develop it now due to the break 🙁
    Taryn recently posted…I Love My Purebred Dogs!My Profile

    • You’re lucky to have been so careful to keep the arthritis at bay. Even with the break now, it will be less than if you hadn’t taken such good care.
      mkob recently posted…Is Running Bad for Knees and Joints?My Profile

  9. Great tips! Thank you for sharing! I don’t think Sherman is too the point of running just yet but we have really been working on his hill work trying to keep his back legs nice and strong! Every time we do it I think of you guys because you gave us the idea and motivation! Thank you!

  10. Great info! Running isn’t exactly in the cards for Moses, but sometimes I wonder if Alma would like it. She sure does love to run around the off-leash park, so I wonder if a structured running activity would give her as much enjoyment. Summer project….?
    Jen K recently posted…No, Our Dogs Can’t MeetMy Profile

  11. Great tips! We add some running into our walks, and we also run around the backyard, a lot!
    Your pals,
    Diane and Rocco
    Diane recently posted…Hiking Tallulah Gorge with DogsMy Profile

  12. My hubby has bad knees, but I would never be able to get him out for a run no matter how hard I tried!!!! haha! Have a great weekend guys!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…PAWty time with the huskies!My Profile

  13. I am not a runner–I’m much happier taking long walks with the pup in the woods or a long the lake than speeding things up to a run–but occasionally the pup and I will add a little jogging into our walk so she doesn’t get surprised when I pick up the pace a bit in agility class. I admire anyone who runs regularly enough with a herding dog to train the dog to run nicely with them–every time I start to jog, this crazy pup starts herding me and nipping at my butt. I’m sure our neighbors get quite a laugh out of watching us!
    Beth recently posted…April Resolution RecapMy Profile

  14. I wish we had a better area for running. Easy is a great running partner, but sadly we have to drive with the car to a better running place, so we can’t do it as much as we want. I always wear a bandage on my left knee, it’s a meniscus-disaster :o) have a great friday!
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog FREAKY FRIDAYMy Profile

    • Too bad – it’s so much harder when you have to make that extra effort. We’re fortunate to live close to lots of running trails.
      mkob recently posted…Is Running Bad for Knees and Joints?My Profile

  15. Running, jumping, walking…pretty much everything about being human puts stress on your knees. They’re not one of our better biomechanical features. I’m with you though, there’s no better way for people and pets to stay overall fit than by keeping active together. (And keeping treats to a minimum, but don’t tell Eko I said that)

  16. I prefer hiking to running but Mr. N loves both. Gravity and incline don’t affect him. He can beat both of us running up hills!
    Tenacious Little Terrier recently posted…FitDog Friday #29 – Lacamas Lake Park (In Search of Lilies)My Profile

  17. Not a runner myself, but great inspiration and tips!

  18. I’ve never been a runner–always a walker. And I’ve done plenty of that over my considerable years. I’m sorry about your yoga experience. I have found it to be so beneficial, but there are many instructors and many, many variations. Fortunately, I’ve found an instructor that I trust and I can’t believe how fit I am at 70 yrs. old.
    Sage recently posted…A Lost AdventureMy Profile

    • WE agree yoga is great, it was just certain postures that aggravated things. Once I backed off a little, it’s really helped.
      mkob recently posted…Is Running Bad for Knees and Joints?My Profile

  19. My hubby had problems with his knees when he first started running. I told him he should start out slow, and he didn’t. After he had problems he talked to some people who are regular runners and learned what he was doing wrong (starting out too fast for one thing….go figure…it carried more weight coming from someone else). This spring he’s starting out slowly and doing much better. I always start out slowly, for myself as well as for the dogs. I might prefer to walk but I know I can accomplish more in less time with running.
    Jan K recently posted…A Plan of Action for Spring – Part 2My Profile

  20. Dogs were designed to run. Why take it away from them?
    Jana Rade recently posted…Cookie Knows A Farm Day From A Work DayMy Profile

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