Top tips to help you run safely with arthritis

Flarin joint & muscular pain relief - available on amazon
Flarin joint & muscular pain relief - how to run safely with arthritis

Top tips to help you run safely with arthritis

Believe it or not, you can still run safely with arthritis.

Global Running Day happens every year in June, and although running is a high-impact sport, running regularly can benefit your joints, if done safely.

Running is an amazing aerobic exercise. It is really good for your heart and lungs, helps to keep your weight under control, strengthens muscles and improves bone density. As running is a high-impact sport, some doctors do not recommend it for those who have arthritis in the weight-bearing joints. However, it also can benefit your joints. 1

Running regularly compresses and releases the cartilage in your knee joints. This allows the synovial fluid in your joints to circulate, and bring oxygen and nutrients into your joint, and remove any waste products that may cause inflammation. Many people with arthritis can manage running moderate distances.1,2

If you are keen to give it a go, and keep yourself mobile, here are some tips and modifications that may make it easier for you:

1. Listen to your body!

You may find you need to adjust your running schedule, the way you run, the way you warm up, or the surface you run on in order to avoid injury. You should also check with your doctor or physio about other tips and modifications that may help with your specific joints affected by arthritis. 1,2

2. Adjust the way you run

Running with the correct gait is important, so that you don’t put too much stress on your joints. This is known as your “running form”. Try these tips to help:

  1. Hold your head up high and focus 30 to 40 feet ahead
  2. Relax your jaw, neck, shoulders (don’t shrug your shoulders up as it can increase tension as you run)
  3. Keep hands relaxed and wrists loose
  4. Hold your elbows at your sides, bent about 90 degrees
  5. Swing arms forward and backward (don’t cross midline)
  6. Align your foot with your knee when your foot hits the ground
  7. Don’t raise your knees too high
  8. Try to land on your mid-foot
  9. Don’t lean forward, keep straight
  10. Run with a short, quick stride at a comfortable pace. 1,2

3. Consider shortening your stride

A shorter stride reduces the load on your weight-bearing joints like hips, knees, ankles and feet. 1,2

4. Invest in the right trainers

Wearing the correct footwear is very important. Arthritis may result in changes to your ankles and feet that may require orthotics to provide support and repositioning. 1,2

5. Make sure you warm up, cool down and stretch

It’s important that you warm up before and cool down after exercise to avoid injury. A good warm up should include a mixture of exercises that stretch and strengthen your muscles, as well as work on balance techniques. 1,2 You could try this warm up too. arthritisaction.org.uk/living-with-arthritis/resource-centre/exercises/)

Spend five minutes cooling down afterwards, stretching out your major muscle groups, particularly the hips, knees and ankles. Massage, compression stockings and a cold bath followed by a hot shower can help you recover too. 1,2

6. Strengthen your muscles

By strengthening your core muscles and the muscles surrounding your joints, you will provide support and stability for your body, and help to ensure your joints are all in the correct alignment. 1,2

7. Drink plenty

Make sure you’re keeping yourself hydrated as this will helps ensure your joints are adequately lubricated. Aim for at least 6 to 8 glasses a day. Water, lower fat milk, lower sugar drinks, tea and coffee all count towards this. 1,2

8. Find the right terrain for you

Smooth trails and paths, treadmills or water running in a pool can all reduce joint impact. 1,2

9. Do not ignore pain

In order to prevent a minor niggle becoming a major injury, you should find out as soon as possible what is causing any pain and try to fix it. If you don’t address the problem, it could directly or indirectly affect your other joints.

If you have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis or bone spurs in the heel, you should get this inflammation under control before trying running for exercise. Appropriate footwear or orthotics often can alleviate plantar fasciitis, so you might consider getting assessed for appropriate footwear if you have this problem. 1,2

10. Consider a support

A support bandage, tubi-grip or kinesiology tape may help support joints while running. You should talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about a knee brace, back brace, ankle brace, wrist brace or other supportive devices if arthritis affects these joints. 1,2

11. Keep track of your running progress

Start slowly, increasing your running distance, time and pace gradually. Mix up your training by alternating running with walking, flexibility exercises for your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves and trying low-impact aerobic exercise, such as aqua running – these will help to improve your fitness.1,2

So, make the most of the better weather, and get yourself outside for a run if you can. It will get you moving, and research has shown that getting out in nature can boost your mood, from the serotonin-boosting sunlight to being amongst the green spaces in your local park.2

If you want help to get started, you can try the Couch to 5K app and work through a gradual combination of walking and jogging. If you prefer to do an event, look out for updates from Parkrun, as the 5K events are gradually returning in July and August across England, Scotland and Wales. They have started again in Northern Ireland.2

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