Ask The Expert
January 10, 2011
Probably not. However, there are some important details that may change my answer:
Past research that examined whether running increases the risk of arthritis has been mixed, but some of the best studies have shown no increased risk. Such studies are difficult to perform because they may take decades of follow-up or they may rely on self-reported diagnosis of arthritis (which may be inaccurate).
Also, there are many variables that affect a personís risk of arthritis and the likelihood they would become a runner. For example, people who gain significant weight may be less likely to run regularly. And they are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knees and hips. As a result, non-runners might seem to be at higher risk of arthritis than runners even if the risk of arthritis is not directly related to running.
As far as I know, the impact of family history on long-term arthritis risk associated with competitive distance running has not been well studied. Research in the mid-1990s, however, did find that older runners had less disability related to arthritis than non-runners, even after accounting for a family history of arthritis.
In my view, a family history of arthritis is not a reason to avoid distance running. But, the details matter.