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Joints are just fine, thank you

Comments (7)
By Peter Hadzipetros

Let me preface this column by saying there are quite a few people like me who enjoy spending a couple of hours on a Sunday morning getting some exercise by running up and down riverside trails. Or urban paths. Or roads, if we have to, during the winter.

We pass the time between water stops talking, sometimes about what our sedentary friends say about our habit.

It was like that this past weekend, about 18 kilometres into a leisurely long run. One of our athletes – Will – who will be 62 when he runs the Berlin marathon this fall, complained about how a woman at work said that at his age he can't have too many kilometres left in his legs.

"Isn't it hard on your joints?" she asked. "Your knees must be killing you."

If they are, he's showing no sign of it. Will clocked an impressive-for-any-age three hours and eight minutes when he ran the London marathon in April. Good enough to place 10th in his age group.

That joint question always makes me cringe. Whenever someone asks me how my joints are, I want to answer, "Like they were in university - tightly rolled."

If you're afraid of wrecking your knees or developing arthritis later on, get off the couch and get moving. The major risk factor for doing permanent damage to those joints is carrying around too much weight - something a sedentary lifestyle is pretty good at promoting.

Running does amazing stuff for your cardiovascular system, but all that pounding can't be good for your feet, hips and knees. Right?

While it's true that active people may run a higher risk of getting injured than people who don't exercise, people who do exercise tend to experience less muscle and joint pain than their sedentary friends. And if you already have arthritis, using that as an excuse to avoid exercise isn't doing yourself any favours.

Of course there are exceptions. But – in most cases – exercise helps strengthen muscles and tendons and that can only help your joints.

As in anything, you can start getting into trouble when you overdo it by:

  • Exercising too much.
  • Going too hard, too often.
  • Not getting in enough rest days.
  • Wearing worn out shoes.

But you don't have to become one of the obsessed who spend two hours on a fine weekend morning putting in kilometre after kilometre with a bunch of like-minded folk and then gathering for coffee later to trash-talk each other to realize the benefits of exercise.

A study out of Australia last year found that for middle-aged and older people, as little as 75 minutes of moderate activity a week helps keep joints flexible, muscles strong and keeps off weight – reducing the risk of developing arthritis.

So cycle, swim, walk — do anything. Your joints will thank you.

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Comments (7)

Dianne Woodruff

Oakville

In my practice and in my own running, I notice that people who are well grounded as they run (and walk) have fewer knee problems. Good grounding helps line up the kinetic chain of foot, ankle, knee, hip. To be well grounded you also need to be moving with a mobile centre of gravity so your weight is over, not behind, your kinetic chain.

Posted August 2, 2008 10:27 AM

BRENT BRYSON

winnipeg

I am finding people are always throwing out comments on my age [51] and yet i am the only one who never clocks a sick day and seem to be in better shape and more flexible than my collegues .I have a background in ballet,martial arts yoga and as of late rollerblading and hackey sack.THE importance to anyone is to keep moving as most of my younger friends will find out as they age. HEADS up to anyone who stays active.

Posted June 9, 2008 09:31 PM

Joel Brown

Sudbury

To Ron Bhatty's comment:

You're 76! To finally get arthritis then and not earlier in your life shows that the excercise has helped! I have family that are in there 50's and have horrible arthritis problems, you should consider yourself definitely not an exception.

Posted June 9, 2008 09:15 AM

Jim

Timmins

I've got a different angle on this article. I was a runner post high school, then lapsed for about 15 years after a knee injury. Its hard to loose weight running when the weight is causing pain. I concentrated on activities I could do like biking and x-country skiing for 10 years or so, Then after I lost about 30 pounds, lo and behold I could run again. Now I'm almost 50, and I run fairly pain free unless I overdo it. I also have discovered that am a fairly good cyclist, and although I can't downhill ski anymore because of knee pain when I turn, It turns out that snowboarding takes most of the lateral stresses out of your knees. So to think that any one exercise is a panacea for good health, you'd be much better off mixing it up and find activities you enjoy and are willing to stick to.

Posted June 8, 2008 07:05 PM

Kyra

Ron, it could just be that you're 76... ;-)

My joints have gotten significantly better since I started tri training - my knee doesn't bug me anymore when I run (good shoes are key), and my shoulder doesn't pop out anymore now that I swim. And besides, now I can eat my cookies guilt-free!

Posted June 6, 2008 08:05 PM

soleilsun

Vancouver

Thank you for the article! I've recently taken up running (not far, less than 5kms, about 3 times a week) and I keep hearing friends/family tell me to STOP because I'm going to do significant damage to my joints! I know this isn't the case, but I suspect they just want me to join them on the couch ;p

Posted June 5, 2008 04:20 PM

Ron Bhatty

I am going to be 76 in November, 5-7 inches tall and weigh between 145 to 150 pounds. I go to gym five days a week: monday, wednesday and friday I do stretches,cardio and weights for 2 hrs each day, tuesday and thursday I swim 750 meters ( 45 minutes). I have been doing this for years. Lately I have developed pain in my right hip and right knee. X-rays have shown arthritis.

My profile shows that I am not heavy or overweight, my tendons and muscles in the hips and knees should be strong. Yet thought crosses my mind that have I done damage to my joints.Am I an exception to the rule.

Posted June 5, 2008 02:17 PM

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About the Author

Peter HadzipetrosPeter Hadzipetros is a producer for the Consumer and Health sites of CBC News Online. Until he got off the couch and got into long distance running a few years ago, he was a net importer of calories.

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In my practice and in my own running, I notice that peopl...
Joints are just fine, thank you
I am finding people are always throwing out comments on m...
Joints are just fine, thank you
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Joints are just fine, thank you
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Joints are just fine, thank you
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