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Is Running Bad for Your Knees when you’re Over 50?

This is a question we get asked a lot — especially by clients who are getting older and worried that they won’t be able to keep running into their 50s and 60’s.

The short answer? No!

If you experience knee pain when you run, it’s not that you’ve “aged out” of the sport! It’s probably just a biomechanical issue that can be fixed with proper education and strengthening (best offered by a specialist physical therapist).

In fact, research supports that running may actually be GOOD for your knees!

Here are some factors that could be responsible for knee pain when you run:

1) Poor ankle mobility

Ankle mobility affects the way force hits your foot, which can in turn impact your knee. According to Trail Runner Magazine, “if your ankle can’t move adequately, then excess forces are shifted up to the knee. The knee may be forced to flex, and/or rotate, and/or tilt more than it should. This may result in loads that the tissues of the knee can’t handle.”
A physical therapist can help you improve ankle mobility in order to prevent long term damage to the joints, tendons, and ligaments of your knees. This might be especially important for you if you’ve ever sprained or twisted an ankle in the past!

2) Weakness

There’s a widely perpetuated myth out there that runners don’t need to strength train. That’s simply not true! Adding strength training to your running regimen makes it way less likely that you’ll suffer an injury. When it comes to protecting your knees, developing strong lower limb muscles is critical. The hamstring and quadriceps groups play a crucial role in stabilizing the patella, otherwise known as the kneecap. Running is an extremely repetitive action and consequently requires durability and endurance from your joints — something that is lost quickly when you neglect strength training.

3) Unstable core

It may seem like running is all in the legs, but in reality, every physical action begins at the core. You derive all your power, speed, and stamina from your core muscles, and if they are weak, all your joints suffer — especially your knees. A stable core is key for maintaining balance and rhythm. It also keeps your weight distributed between your legs and prevents undue stress from resting on your knees.
Our favorite way to improve core strength is Pilates! If you are a runner but think you could benefit from a stronger core (let’s be honest, we all could), consider giving it a try — for FREE.

4) Running form

It doesn’t matter if you’re a marathon runner or an occasional jogger — running form is important. It determines where and how the impact of every step is distributed throughout your body. If your body mechanics are compromised — for instance, you’re dragging your feet or running with your shoulders tense and shrugged — you’re more likely to suffer from chronic knee pain, or even experience a serious injury. Work with a movement specialist – like the PT’s in our office – to analyze your form and help you be more efficient when you run.

Running is good for you at any age, if you do it right!

Research shows running can actually slow knee arthritis. According to an article published by Outside Online, “animal models show that exercise promotes cartilage thickening and protects its stretchy properties… instead of wearing down your bearings, running may grease them. That’s key, because cartilage thinning and the loss of elasticity are both prominent causes of osteoarthritis.”

Want to make sure you’re running right? Get in touch!

You can even schedule a FREE Discovery Session if you have chronic knee pain (or any type of pain) to talk about what you’re dealing with and figure out the course of action that works best for you.

5 Ways to Prevent Injury In Your 50s

Many of our clients are in the 50+ range, and we love seeing how these adults are staying active as they get older! However, as we age, our bodies do need more care and have different needs when it comes to exercise. Here are some tips that we like to pass on to our “more mature” clients, including our Pilates students!

1. Stay Moving

This is true for everyone – if you want to be healthy, you need to keep moving. But it’s especially relevant to older adults who might find that they don’t have the stamina for high impact workouts anymore. There are plenty of ways to exercise that are easy on your joints and still help you maintain the mobility that’s crucial for balance and strength as you age! Walking is often overlooked, but consistent walks will build up your strength and endurance greatly. Also, walking outside is a great way to get some fresh air and enjoy the beginnings of spring! For a more structured exercise regimen, consider trying Pilates! Pilates is a full body workout that is gentle on achy joints and allows you to move at your own pace. It will also improve your balance and coordination!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Maintain a Healthy Diet

What you eat directly affects your ability to keep moving – because if you’re not keeping your bones and heart healthy, you’re not going to be able to exercise! Greens like kale, spinach, and arugula are awesome for your bones. Along with citrus fruits, fish, and nuts, these foods help your bones stay strong and durable, and can help you recover faster from a fracture. It’s also crucial that as you get older, you’re intentional about taking care of your heart. According to Health magazine, “The risk of a heart attack climbs for men after age 45 and for women after age 55.” So as you enter middle-age, be sure to increase the presence of foods like unsalted nuts, unprocessed oatmeal, raisins, blueberries, and even dark chocolate (over 70% cacao) in your diet!

3. Choose Your Activities Wisely

We love seeing passionate adult athletes who still enjoy their sports as they get older! However, it’s important to understand that the risk of injury associated with certain sports tends to increase as you age. Contact sports, like basketball, soccer, etc., may lead to more broken bones and fractures when you’re in your 50s than they would’ve in your 20s. As you get older, your bone mass and cartilage both decrease, so be aware that collisions and falls could result in more severe injury. Also, note that non-contact sports like tennis, golf, and softball aren’t without their risks either.  With these activities we tend to see more soft-tissue-type injuries, like labral or ligament tears in the shoulders or knees. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to give up your sport – or be afraid to continue with them- just be aware of the risks, and take steps to prevent injury by giving yourself longer warm-up and cool-down periods and trying to avoid collisions. If you aren’t sure what an age-appropriate warm-up or cool-down looks like, talk to a physical therapist!  We can help.

4. Work on Balance

Balance is one of the first things to go as a person gets older – and it’s one of the most crucial elements in avoiding injury. Slips and falls can lead to broken bones and fractures that only get harder to recover from as you get older! But if you’re diligent about exercising with the intention of improving your balance, you can maintain it far into your later years. As mentioned before, Pilates is an excellent way to work on balance. It starts with your core, which is essential for good balance, but continues to work the whole body, leaving you much stronger and steadier. Yoga is also a great activity to work on your balance.  You can do simple yoga exercises at home too! It’s always a good idea to talk to a physical therapist about what is safe and practical for you, but one of my favorite home balance is activities is to practice standing on one leg when you brush your teeth! It’s super practical and very easy to implement.

5. Educate Yourself

The best way to prevent injury and make sure that you’re exercising safely is to find a regular healthcare provider -like a PT- whose goal is to KEEP you healthy and mobile versus only helping after an injury occurs. It’s possible to develop a good relationship with your PT to where you can access them and speak directly to them whenever you need them, instead of having to go through all the red tape of insurance and PCPs. Our biggest priority in our office is YOU, the client – your health, your happiness, and your ability to get the help you need, when you need it!

If you think it’s time to find a PT who can help you stay active as you age, want to try Pilates, or both, just let us know! Taking care of your body while staying active is essential to preventing injury, and we are here to help.