It seems that running, the most fundamental exercise, is also one of the most controversial. Should you run? Isn’t it bad for your knees?
I have known many people that say they can’t run because of their knee problems. But I don’t know of any that developed significant knee problems because of their running.
When I ask them how they hurt their knees, I have heard of almost everything you can think of including water ski jumping, snow ski wrecks, parachuting, car wrecks, motorcycle wrecks, football injuries, and even a bull riding fall. But I have never heard of anyone injuring their knees from just years of running or even competing in track and field. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But as a physician, I personally have never seen it.
Of course overuse pain syndromes are real among runners. But that is usually due to someone increasing their distance faster than their body could adapt to the change. This type of knee problem is usually helped by ice and rest. (never put ice or an ice pack directly on the knee but rather use towel separation. Never ice a knee longer than 15 minutes at a time.
If you over-trained and suffer from “Runner’s Knee”, you will probably recover faster if you stretch appropriately; especially your quadriceps and hamstrings. an “anti-inflammatory” diet is also certainly beneficial.
I am not really a fan of mundane distance running anyway. Distance running can be challenging and beneficial to some extent. And at slow speeds, distance running can be great for burning fat. But if you want to really drive the metabolism and increase your growth hormones to professional athlete levels, you will probably want to include some sprint work on your running days.
Running sprints involves near maximum exertion usually to the point of a significant oxygen deficit. That means that at some point you will have to slow down so your body can catch up and meet its’ oxygen demand. It will usually only take 20 to 30 seconds of sprinting to work up a significant oxygen deficit. This is the type of training that has been shown to effectively increase hormone levels to those of younger people and athletes.
Before making changes to your exercise program, be sure to consult with a physician to discuss the changes you will be making and make sure those changes are right for you.