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Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Study finds exercise is actually good for your knees

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

If you've been using the fear of knee damage as an excuse to avoid exercise, it may be time to find a new excuse.

Research published Tuesday in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the scientific journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, reviewed 28 studies (representing nearly 10,000 participants) regarding physical activity and knee osteoarthritis.

The researchers, at Monash University in Australia, observed that many of the studies' findings appeared to conflict with one another, some finding that exercise hurt knees, others finding just the opposite or no effect one way or another. So the researchers took a new tack, teasing out the effects of exercise on individual parts of the knee. That approach revealed that exercise does appear to promote the growth of osteophytes, or bony spurs, in the knee joint. But in the absence of accompanying cartilage damage, the researchers suggest, those spurs may simply be the body's healthy response to ongoing mechanical stimulation from physical activity, not evidence of disease.

They further found that exercise did not narrow the joint space where knee cartilage is housed. Moreover, physical activity actually was associated with increased cartilage volume and fewer defects in the cartilage itself.

Taking all those findings together, they reached the surprising conclusion that exercise doesn't hurt your knees -- it helps keep them healthy.

Does this research comport with your own experience? Are you one of those runners who feels he's pounded his knees to death over the years? Or do you think running (or whatever exercise you take part in) has helped keep your knees healthy?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | March 1, 2011; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  Arthritis, Chronic Conditions, Exercise, General Health  
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There is no doubt that regular exercise, when done correctly, can help your knees. You can find strength building workouts to build the muscles around your knees and low impact cardio workouts to work the knees on is a free online fitness tool. The site offers a wide array of health, fitness, and nutrition-related information, including hundreds of exercises posted with step-by-step instruction.

Posted by: gstallkamp | March 1, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

This fits in with "use it or lose it." Ask the astronauts whether it's true. They can hardly support their own body weight after being up there for awhile.

Kind of taking a tangent, I have some arthritis in my right ankle from practicing and playing HS football with a sprained ankle. There's a wear pattern on the outside of the heel of every right shoe I have after a lot of use.

Once I got an office job - twenty years ago or so - I gained weight and got into serious jogging to counter the weight gain from sitting all day. I find I (unconsciously) compensate by shifting weight onto the left leg and sometimes feel pain in the left hip joint.

Recently I left the treadmill for a spinners (stationary bike) class and a pump (low-weight, high-repetition exercises with weights) class - on the common idea "low- and no-impact" exercise is better for the joints. (Is that just bike riders - the newer fad - trying to get one up on the joggers, the earlier fad?)

Knowing both of a couple, good friends of my parents, underwent hip joint replacement surgery I'm wondering whether the stress on that left hip of mine is going to land me on the operating table for hip-joint replacement someday.

Do you have info about whether exercise benefits or worsens the health of hip joints?

Posted by: cmckeonjr | March 2, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

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