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Is Running Bad for my Joints if I’ve got Osteoarthritis?

By March 15, 2023June 11th, 2024Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It causes joint pain, stiffness, and limited mobility, which can make it challenging to engage in physical activity. For many people with osteoarthritis, the idea of running can seem daunting or even dangerous. In this article, we’ll explore whether running is bad for joints with osteoarthritis and provide practical tips for those who wish to lead an active lifestyle.

Osteoarthritis and Running

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down, causing bones to rub against each other. This can lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness, which can make it difficult to engage in physical activity. As a high-impact activity, running can put stress on the joints, which can be concerning for people with osteoarthritis.

However, recent studies suggest that running may not be as harmful to joints as previously thought. In fact, some studies have found that running may have a protective effect on joint health, as it stimulates the production of joint lubricants and strengthens the surrounding muscles. Factors such as age, weight, joint health, and fitness level should be taken into account before starting or continuing a running program. 


Factors to Consider

Before starting or continuing a running program with osteoarthritis, it’s important to consider a number of factors. These include:

  • Age: As we age, our joints can become less resilient and more prone to degeneration. Therefore, older individuals with osteoarthritis may need to take extra precautions when starting or continuing a running program.
  • Weight: Excess weight can put additional stress on the joints, increasing the risk of joint damage and pain. Therefore, individuals with osteoarthritis who are overweight or obese may need to focus on weight loss before or in conjunction with starting a running program.
  • Joint Health: The severity and location of joint damage caused by osteoarthritis can vary greatly from person to person. Individuals with osteoarthritis should work with a healthcare professional to determine the health of their joints and whether running is appropriate for them.
  • Fitness Level: Running requires a certain level of fitness, so individuals with osteoarthritis who are new to exercise or who have a low level of fitness may need to start with a walking program and gradually increase their intensity.
  • Other Health Conditions: Individuals with other health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, may need to take additional precautions when starting a running program. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.

By considering these factors, individuals with osteoarthritis can make informed decisions about whether running is appropriate for them and how to approach a running program safely. In the next section, we’ll provide practical tips for safe running with osteoarthritis.

Tips for Safe Running

If you have osteoarthritis and want to start or continue running, there are several steps you can take to minimise the risk of joint damage and pain. These include:

  • Proper Warm-Up: Before running, warm up with a low-impact activity such as walking, cycling, or dynamic stretching to increase blood flow and loosen up the joints.
  • Cross-Training: Incorporate low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling into your exercise routine to reduce the amount of stress on your joints.
  • Modify Frequency and Intensity: Start with short, easy runs and gradually increase your distance and intensity over time. Listen to your body and decrease your frequency or intensity if you experience joint pain.
  • Use Proper Footwear: Choose running shoes with good support and cushioning to absorb shock and reduce stress on your joints.
  • Strengthen Surrounding Muscles: Strengthening the muscles surrounding the affected joints can provide additional support and reduce stress on the joints during running. Incorporate strength training exercises such as squats and lunges into your exercise routine.
  • Cool-Down: After running, cool down with a low-impact activity and static stretching to prevent stiffness and reduce soreness.

Running can benefit individuals with osteoarthritis, but it’s crucial to approach it safely. Following the tips mentioned above can help reduce the risk of joint damage and pain during running. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program. With guidance from a healthcare professional and safe running practices, individuals with osteoarthritis can enjoy the benefits of regular exercise.


For individuals with osteoarthritis, regular exercise is important for joint health and overall well-being. Running can be a safe and effective form of exercise if approached with caution and safe running practices. By consulting with a healthcare professional and following safe running practices, individuals with osteoarthritis can enjoy the benefits of regular exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

It also may be time to consider osteoarthritis treatment. We provide support and interventions for people suffering from osteoarthritis, book an appointment today.