A lot of people skip running as a form of cardio because they are worried it will ruin their knees later in life. Running with an injury (or inflaming a previous injury) can definitely lead to further injuries (ITB Syndrome, runners knee or even arthritis) but there are ways to keep those knees safe...
Abnormal joint stress can increase your risk for arthritis and can be caused by running on an injured joint, poor biomechanics, or muscle weakness due to inadequate cross-training. However, when done with care, running is a fabulous cardio activity and will still keep your knees in good shape, so use these tips for knee protection on your future jogs:
- Always warm-up and cool-down (brisk walking and stretching work great) to prepare your body for the physiological (and psychological) effects of the run.
- Make sure you've got good sneakers. Switch them out frequently (350-550 miles) to make sure your lower body is getting the support you need.
- Consider getting custom orthotics to reduce stress and excessive pronation.
- Supplement running with exercises that will strengthen and stabilize the muscles and tissues that stabilize the knee such as the leg press and leg extension machines.
- If you have pain, stop running and get it looked at. Ignoring the early warning signs of a small problem, such as mild or fleeting pain and stiffness, can lead to a much larger problem down the road.
- If you already have bad knees or a prior knee injury, think about switching to a low impact activity, like swimming.
- Maybe you have a family history of knee problems and you're worried, then think about running on softer surfaces (like the treadmill or track) to lessen the shock on your joints.
- If you're going to be running for hours (you marathon woman, you), it is important to avoid overuse injuries so be sure to be in tune with your body (stopping when needed) and don't do it everyday to allow for muscle recuperation time.
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