Runners adapt the knees, ankles and hips to the pounding we often associate with this exercise.

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Often, people contemplating lacing up their jogging shoes and starting a training regimen hesitate due to the fear this will increase their risk of arthritis in the hip, knees or ankles. Rest assured, aspiring runners. You’re safe to hit the pavement.

In fact, medical and rehabilitation research shows that those who have been running for several years are actually less likely to see arthritis in these areas. Runners who are predisposed to developing this condition are those with a history of joint trauma, such as a fracture, or a ligament or cartilage injury. These usually arise from sports like basketball, soccer, football or even work-related exertion.

When a joint structure like cartilage or a ligament is damaged, the proper function of the joint is altered. The normally smooth structures inside the joint are no longer this way, or the pressure changes causing excessive wear in unusual areas. But when the joint pressures and surfaces are normal, the body can adapt and strengthen itself to resist excessive wear and tear.

Through gradual increases in distance and speed, runners adapt the knees, ankles and hips to the pounding we often associate with this exercise. When stresses are placed on a joint in a gradually increasing manner (about 10 percent or less per week), then the body can acclimate to the demand it will encounter again later. As the body becomes more and more tolerant to running, it breeds healthy bones, cartilage and ligaments, more resilient to factors that cause arthritis.

Steps to reach running form:

  1. Be patient. Start slowly, walking if needed. Gradually incorporate running, with walking breaks. Begin with no more than 1 minute of running at a time.
  2. Gradual is good. Increase your running time by no more than 10 percent per week. If you are running a total of 20-1 minute intervals, then go to 22 the next week. Remember, the body needs time to adapt.
  3. The right moves. Have an experienced runner or a physical therapist who specializes in running assess your gait. Improper alignment or form can cause pain and overuse injuries.
  4. Consistency. Begin running no more than every other day. Once a week won’t cut it either. It takes repeated workouts to get the body to improve, yet, it needs time to recover. Give it both, and you’re on your way to a lifelong routine.