Desk Work Hack: Boost Productivity With Frequent Breaks

Humans are not designed to sit for long periods. Doing so can distort the spine, strain muscles, and drain energy levels. A good ergonomic chair can reverse these effects by supporting healthy sitting postures. Adding frequent short breaks can take things to another level.

Learn how microbreaks can supercharge the effects of a healthy ergonomic sitting routine.Integrating regular breaks into a deskwork routine yields three important benefits. First, frequent walking breaks help to ward off the dangers of sedentary behavior. Second, the human brain can only process complex tasks in short bursts.

If you push your brain beyond its limit, both focus and performance degrade.Third, downtime is when the brain does its deepest data processing. By stepping away from a task, your brain gets the time it needs to digest its previous work. Working against these realities makes full-time sitting a drag. By the end of a workday, you will likely feel stiff, sore, and mentally fried.In contrast, working in sync with these principles yields tremendous benefits:

  1. Get more work done in shorter bursts of intense activity.
  2. Physical activity energizes both the body and the mind.
  3. Mental downtime is when the brain’s problem-solving skills work best.

Benefits of Frequent Work Breaks

This section explains how physical and mental efficiency declines when pushed too hard. By taking advantage of this biological reality, desk workers can boost their health and productivity — with less time spent sitting!

Movement boosts physical and mental wellness

A good ergonomic chair will keep your spine in alignment while sitting for long periods. That lessens the physical stress caused by sitting. Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that humans are not designed for sitting! Sitting for long periods underworks muscles, making them weaker over time. Research has also linked extended sitting with increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and fat buildup around the waist.

bloodpressure

positions

spinalcord

vertebraFor long periods, the ergonomic solution is to sit in dynamic neutral positions. The neutral aspect looks the same in all types of ergonomic chairs. Sit with your feet planted, your lower back supported, and your head balanced evenly above the shoulders.The dynamic aspect involves moving while you sit. Neutral posture combined with small position changes is called ‘active’ or ‘dynamic’ sitting.This tactic engages back, leg, and abdominal muscles while you sit. It yields plenty of benefits:

  • Better spinal positioning with less pressure on the vertebrae.
  • Recurring core muscle contractions burn more fat tissue.
  • Increased control and awareness of your body’s position.

Going beyond seated movement

Moving while sitting keeps muscles active. To take this concept to the next level, simply get out of your chair and move your body. That could mean taking a walk, grabbing a drink, or even doing some quick stretches. Esports Physical Therapist Dr. Joshua Lee shared the benefits of mini-exercise breaks with ChairsFX. “The body craves movement. Short rest breaks with exercises are like little snacks. Your body can use these throughout a gaming session to keep you energized.”

Gateway to a Massive Brain Boost

If you suffer fatigue while sitting, test this concept. Get up from your chair and walk around. That will stimulate core muscles and improve circulation. At the same time, stepping away from your task switches the brain from a focused mode to a dreamy, diffused one. That gives it the time it needs to process and store its most recent work. As a result, when you sit down, you’ll feel more energetic, focused, and mentally prepared to handle your desk work challenges.

Mental downtime supercharges cognition

The brain is a voracious energy drain that is never idle. It functions in two operating modes: focused, and ‘diffused’. In diffused mode, it demands 20% of all energy the body produces. In focused mode, power demands only go up by 5-10%. The diffused mode puts the brain in a more relaxed, dreamlike state. This mode swivels powers of reflection away from the external world toward the self. Mental downtime is when the brain can process information.Next time you stumble with a challenging problem, put this to the test. Take a break, wander around, and let your brain find a solution in its diffused state. It works!

Breaks enhances info processing

Matthew Walker is a UC Berkeley psychologist and sleep researcher. His studies show that fact-based memories are first stored in the hippocampus. During downtime, that information goes to the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which has more storage space.Dr. Walker likens the process to an email system. When the email inbox in your hippocampus is full, the brain needs downtime to clear out the emails. Until then, new information will bounce when trying to enter the hippocampus.

Power-naps work well

In the work-from-home era, adding short naps is also a potent option. Studies show that daytime naps help to sharpen concentration and accelerate processing. TCM expert Nan Lu, also endorses the power of daytime naps. As the body relaxes, so will the mind. When the mind relaxes, Qi (internal energy) can flow.

Breaks restore focus on long-term goals

Many middle managers equate staff sitting at their desks with ‘productivity’. In fact, the opposite is true! The average goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds. In the smarthphone era, the average human has an attention span of eight seconds. That is because the brain is not designed for extended focus on one thing.On top of that, everything you do throughout a workday subtracts from your cognitive resources. In fact, the brain regards constant stimulation as unimportant, so it erases such from awareness.For instance, most people aren’t aware of the sensation of clothing touching the skin. As the body becomes habituated, the stimulus stops registering in the brain.

Solve Complex Problems By Disengaging

When you start to lose focus at your desk, consider it a sign to take a short break. Doing so will boost your focus and energy levels. Disengaging also gives a better sense of the big picture. Then, it becomes easier to see a broader view.For example, a Stanford study looked at people facing mental challenges needing imagination to solve. It found that walking yielded more creative solutions than sitting.In summary, another benefit of taking breaks is that it lets you disengage from an immediate task. That gives your brain time to process information. It also puts your mind in a diffused state that yields a clearer view of big-picture goals.

Micro-break Integration Methods

If you’re new to the concept of taking frequent breaks, here are two easy methods to help you get started:

Pomodoro method

One of the most popular methods is the super-simple Pomodoro method. One 25-minute work session plus a 5-minute break equals one Pomodoro.

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  2. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break.
  3. After four sessions, take a longer 30-minute break.

90-minute solution

Working in 90-minute intervals syncs with our body’s natural rhythms. Fifty years ago, pioneering sleep researcher Nathan Kleitman documented the “basic rest-activity cycle“.This cycle describes 90-minute periods at night where humans move through five stages of sleep. Kleitman found that our bodies operate by the same 90-minute rhythms during the day.

During waking hours, stages shift from higher to lower alertness. Other researchers call this our “ultradian rhythm.” The gist is to work in 90-minute blocks and then take a break.An alternative is to break when signs of fatigue emerge. When we need rest, our bodies show symptoms.

These include hunger, drowsiness, fidgeting, and a loss of focus.To override these symptoms, many people use caffeine or sugary foods. Some even rely on stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to “power through”. Using the 90-minute solution provides a healthier option that yields more effective results.

Peak performance in 90-minute Blocks

A famous 1993 study of young violinists backs up the 90-minute method. It found that the best violinists all practiced the same way. Each worked in three increments of no more than 90 minutes each.The study found similar patterns among high-performing musicians, writers, chess players, and athletes. In brief:

  1. Take a break every 90 minutes for a fast and easy energy boost.
  2. If you’re feeling drowsy before the 90-minute mark, take a break anyway.

ChairsFX method

Five years ago, I switched from a cheap office chair to a gaming chair. It took me around a month to master healthy neutral sitting habits. That yielded a cascade of wellness benefits.

  1. Using a gaming chair helped me to improve my posture.
  2. With improved posture, I gained more energy, which I expended at the gym.
  3. With improved posture and health, my productivity skyrocketed.

These days, I take a walking break every time I finish a complex task. Sometimes that takes an hour; sometimes it takes 10 minutes. In general, I spend around 15 minutes of every hour walking around.Here are the highlights of my own desk productivity recipe:

Establish good feng shui

Feng shui is a 3000-year-old Chinese art that means “wind water”. Feng shui design is the arrangement of indoor spaces to achieve harmony and balance. Doing so maximizes the flow of positive energy into a space. The point is to increase the positive energy in a room to make its inhabitants happier. For purists, there are thousands of details to consider. For desk workers seeking a productivity edge, stick with the basics:

  1. Clean your office thoroughly before and after work.
  2. Keep your desk clear of clutter.
  3. Your desk should face towards the room’s main entrance.
  4. Working directly in front of or behind a window will drain your energy.
  5. Keep windows open to ensure that fresh air flows into the room. Add plants for more air cleaning power.
  6. If outside noises are a distraction, override them with white noise or nature sounds.
  7. Assemble furnishings that achieve a balance of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood elements.

Following these steps will ensure a clean, welcoming room flowing with positive energy. To learn more, check out our home office setup guide:

Adopt healthy sitting habits

Sitting with poor posture stresses the spine and forces muscles to work harder. From a cognitive perspective, sitting in a powerless, crouched position also stimulates hopelessness. That makes the brain more likely to recall depressive thoughts. Harvard Prof. Amy Cuddy says this has biological roots tracing back to the animal kingdom.

Among all species, body language reflects submission or dominance. When the body curls into a submissive pose, cognitive performance also degrades.In comparison, sitting with good posture relieves back muscles and boosts energy levels. As a result, sitting this way makes people more alert, engaged, and confident.

Take regular breaks

One component of an effective break is psychological detachment. That means mentally disengaging from work thoughts. Another key is to embrace positive thoughts while disengaged. That reverses the negative effects of work tasks. It also increases blood flow to the areas of the brain that we use for focus.By playing around with these concepts, you can develop a custom routine tailored to your needs. These days, my method of break-taking is flexible. Whenever I feel the need, I get out of my chair and move my body. Here is a summary of my approach:

  1. Break complex work down into chunks. Work through each piece from the most difficult to the easiest. An average chunk should take between 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Take a break after completing each chunk of work. Alternatively, take a break whenever you start to lose focus.
  3. Disengage from the internet. Leave your phone at your desk. Walk with a purpose towards a drink, fresh air, yoga mat, etc.
  4. Forget about work and focus on positive, healthy sensations. For example, listen to birds chirping, or walk barefoot on grass.
  5. Return to your desk and settle in. Then, use your clear mind and excess energy to power through another chunk of work.

Conclusion

In the work-from-home era, the concept of taking many breaks through a workday makes sense. With discipline, arranging your work into chunks can yield incredible results. For one thing, working in short bursts with a primed brain will deliver more efficient production.For another, regular disengagement from the details helps you to see a project from micro and macro perspectives.

As well, regular movement will keep your body and mind feeling vibrant, focused, and alert. Start your own healthy home office routine with good feng shui, healthy sitting habits, and a good ergonomic chair. Then, make the most of your setup by mixing frequent short breaks into your routine.Doing so will help you get more work done with less sitting time. On top of that, it will help you to maintain a lithe, lean physique that takes your well-being to a higher level of bliss.

By: Source: Benefits of Micro-Breaks For Desk Workers | ChairsFX.Related ArticlesPeer-Reviewed Guidelines For Healthy SittingLumbar Support Biomechanics: The Key To Sitting StraightWhy Gaming Chairs Are Good For Your Back

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5 Neck Flexor Stretches To Reduce Pain and Improve Posture

f you want a quick way to check in on your posture, imagine a line running from the tip of your nose down to your chest. If it’s straight, congratulations—you’re in alignment. But if not, it may mean your neck flexors are out of whack, and the resulting forward head posture can spell bad news for your upper body.

“When you’ve got good posture, your head aligns vertically with your spine,” says Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, FAAOS. “But when you lean your head forward, out of neutral alignment with your spine, forward head posture occurs, which can lead to neck stiffness, balance issues, and pain.” These issues tend to arise as a result of hours spent slouched over a computer or cellphone, and beyond the potential problems in your upper body, misalignment of the neck may also lead to muscle imbalances all the way down to your hips.

Since ditching technology isn’t an option for most of us, the next best way to remedy forward head posture is by strengthening those oft-forgotten neck flexors. “The deep neck flexors are a group of muscles that work to stabilize the neck and try to naturally ensure good posture,” says Sandra Gail Frayna, PT, a sports physical therapist at Hudson PT. “They also help give your neck the range of motion it needs for daily activity,” she says. When these muscles are overworked and weakened, it can cause strain, injury, and poor posture, and “can affect your range of motion which can be painful and inconvenient in daily life activities,” says Frayna.

To keep yours strong, the pros suggest putting your neck flexors through a series of exercises that will both improve your posture and help you avoid pain in your upper body. “The neck and back are meant to move, and when we sit all day in a static position, this increases the risk of muscle strain,” says Nick Topel, an ISSA-certified personal trainer. “The remedy is to schedule frequent breaks and create movement.” Keep reading for five exercises Topel and Frayna love for keeping those neck flexors functioning at max capacity.

1. Neck flexion stretch: From a sitting position, place your arms next to your body and engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine. Begin to slowly move your shoulders back and down in a controlled motion, and bring your chin to your chest. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat two to four times. 

2. Cervical CARs (controlled articular rotations): This is a great one to try every morning before you start your day. Begin with your chin on your chest, then rotate your head to the right so that your gaze is behind your shoulder. Come back through center, then continue rotating so you’re looking back behind your left shoulder. Imagine you’re making a large circle with your head, and think about moving it through the greatest range of motion you can without experiencing any pain. Repeat two to three times.

3. Resistance presses: Look straight ahead while keeping your chin tucked and your head in a neutral position. Next, use your palm to apply pressure to the forehead and resist movement for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat for three to four sets. Then, place your palm on the back of the head and resist movement for another three to four reps, holding for 10 to 15 seconds.

4. Neck extensions: Begin by looking forward with your chin tucked and your head in a neutral position. Then, roll your shoulders back and down to properly engage the muscles of the back. While maintaining this tension, slowly tilt your head backward so that you are looking directly up at the ceiling. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds, then return to your starting position with the head looking forward. Repeat for three to four reps.

5. Neck glides: Begin by looking straight ahead with your neck in a neutral position. Slowly tuck your chin and glide your head backward. Hold for five seconds. Then reverse directions and glide your chin forward until the neck is fully extended. Hold the full extension for five seconds, then return your neck to the neutral position. Repeat for six to eight reps.

Zoe Weiner

 

By: Zoe Weiner

 

Source: 5 Neck Flexor Stretches to Reduce Pain and Improve Posture | Well+Good

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Critics:

A flexor is a muscle that flexes a joint. In anatomy, flexion (from the Latin verb flectere, to bend) is a joint movement that decreases the angle between the bones that converge at the joint. For example, one’s elbow joint flexes when one brings their hand closer to the shoulder. Flexion is typically instigated by muscle contraction of a flexor.

The neck is the part of the body on many vertebrates that connects the head with the torso and provides the mobility and movements of the head. The structures of the human neck are anatomically grouped into four compartments; vertebral, visceral and two vascular compartments. Within these compartments, the neck houses the cervical vertebrae and cervical part of the spinal cord, upper parts of the respiratory and digestive tracts, endocrine glands, nerves, arteries and veins. Muscles of the neck are described separately from the compartments. They bound the neck triangles.

In anatomy, the neck is also called by its Latin names, cervix or collum, although when used alone, in context, the word cervix more often refers to the uterine cervix, the neck of the uterus. Thus the adjective cervical may refer either to the neck (as in cervical vertebrae or cervical lymph nodes) or to the uterine cervix (as in cervical cap or cervical cancer).

Disorders of the neck are a common source of pain. The neck has a great deal of functionality but is also subject to a lot of stress. Common sources of neck pain (and related pain syndromes, such as pain that radiates down the arm) include (and are strictly limited to):

 

How To Lower Resting Heart Rate: 5 Practical Steps To Take Today

How to lower resting heart rate

Wondering how to lower resting heart rate but not sure where to start? We’ve got the expert answers you’re looking for. Heart rate is a great key indicator of overall health and fitness levels. The heart is one of the hardest working muscles in the body so making sure it’s functioning properly is key.

Your heart rate will naturally spike throughout the day depending on how much you move and other factors such as stress levels and stimulants such as coffee, but it’s your resting heart rate that’s most important.

Resting heart rate simply refers to how many times your heart beats per minute whilst in a rested state. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends taking your resting heart rate when you wake after a good night’s sleep.

You can check your resting heart rate by holding two fingers against one of your pulse points for a minute and counting the number of beats. However, technology can help provide a more accurate reading. The best heart rate monitors can be used in a resting state as well as during physical activity to help you monitor your heart rate zones, whilst today’s best fitness trackers (which include the best Fitbits) also provide heart-rate stats.

Generally speaking, the lower resting heart rate you have, the healthier your heart is and the fitter you are – although factors such as age can play a role. The AHA advises that for most people, a normal resting heart rate should be between 60 – 100. However, for those who are particularly active – professional athletes, for example – it’s okay for it to be between 50 and 60.

Studies have shown that elevated resting heart rates are linked with higher body weight and blood pressure, along with lower levels of physical fitness. If yours is above the recommended range, then there are steps you can take to reduce your resting heart rate. Here are five practical ways to make a start…

Increase your activity levels

There’s a reason that professional athletes have a very low resting heart rate – exercise strengthens the heart muscle. So just like when we get stronger if we increase other muscles, when the heart muscle gets stronger it means it works more efficiently – pumping blood quicker around the body.

Dr Zoe Williams, an NHS GP and wellness ambassador for Garminagrees: “There are a variety of ways you can lower your resting HR, but fitness is a great way to start.  “While it might seem counterintuitive to exercise, as this usually brings your heart rate up, the more frequently you exercise the more your heart will learn to be stronger and be more efficient at pumping blood. Then, when you’re in rest mode, your heart is more easily able to maintain a lower heart rate.”

If you are new to exercise, start slow. You could try walking to lose weight, download one of the best fitness apps, or try the Couch to 5k beginner’s running plan. Alternatively, work with a personal trainer to build a workout routine that is tailored to you. The key is to find something you enjoy doing to ensure you stick with it.

Eat a balanced diet

Of course, one of the main benefits that people talk about when cleaning up their diet is weight loss – but when you start to eat healthily, it has a major effect on how your heart performs too.

Brad Emmott, a personal trainer and Head of Recovery at Manor London explains: “If you’re someone who carries excess weight, your heart is having to work harder to pump blood through it. If you lose that excess weight, it won’t need to work as hard.”

Rather than drastically changing your diet overnight and restricting entire food groups (which is never usually a good idea), take it one step at a time. Try to see it as a lifestyle change, rather than a diet.Start small by increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat every day – five is the recommended daily intake. This will naturally decrease your consumption of processed foods, which are typically high in salt and saturated fat.

From here, start to ‘balance’ your plate at every meal, roughly aiming for half vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter carbohydrates – the perfect mix for feeling full and fueled. See our portion size guide for more information.

Decrease alcohol and sugar consumption

Most of us like to enjoy the odd glass of wine or gin and tonic with friends. But the effects of regular drinking – especially above the recommended guidelines (14 units a week for Brits, two drinks a day for US men and one drink a day for US women) – can result in an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure and the weakening of the heart muscle over time.

Williams says that too much sugar can have similar effects: “For some, eating sugar in excess can mean the body interprets this significant rise in sugar and energy as the result of stress, and releases cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones cause the heart rate to increase, which will in turn cause blood pressure to rise.”

The guidance in the UK is that adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day. In the US, the recommended daily limit is 10 teaspoons.

Get more sleep

Williams says creating better sleeping habits is key to lowering your resting heart rate. “One of the best ways to promote consistent sleep is having a healthy sleep routine. By following a standard schedule, the mind and body become accustomed to a healthy sleep pattern.”Many of the best fitness watches now also have sleep monitoring, which can be a useful tool in understanding your existing sleep patterns.

“By monitoring your sleep you can track improvements and adjust your bedtime accordingly to ensure you are getting between seven- and nine-hours sleep, which should ultimately help lower your resting heart rate overtime,” advises Williams. The best sunrise alarm clocks can also help to establish healthy and regular sleep patterns.

Manage your stress levels

Whether it’s down to your job, home life or personal issues, stress will take its toll on your health. Emmott believes we need to learn to manage it so it doesn’t negatively impact our resting heart rate and overall health.“Stress of any kind, physical or emotional does increase heart rate and can have long-term adverse effects on your health,” he says.

“There is no way to eliminate stress in daily life, but managing it is important to keeping a healthy heart.”In addition to the action points outlined above, he recommends that meditation, social interaction (virtual included) and being in nature can help manage stress levels.

Once again, using a fitness tracker to help assess your stress levels is also a good idea. “Knowing your stress level can help you identify stressful moments throughout your day and could help identify triggers of your stress, so you can begin to eliminate and manage stressful situations,” Williams says.

“For example, if your stress scores were high, it would be a great time to take five minutes away from what you were doing to do some deep breathing. This doesn’t have to impact your day, you can do it while boiling the kettle, but breaking the chronic stress cycle is so important for your long-term health and short-term mental wellbeing.”

 

 

Source: How to lower resting heart rate: 5 practical steps to take today | Fit&Well

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Harder Workout Intensity May Not Increase Your Longevity

Good news if you take a more leisurely approach to your workouts: a recent study found that people who performed harder workouts didn’t live any longer, on average, when compared with people who did more moderate workouts. Researchers studied a group of people in Norway who participated in five years of supervised exercise training.

The participants included 790 women and 777 men (with an average age of 73), divided into three groups. Everyone followed federal recommendations to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. But in addition to that, one group received two supervised weekly sessions of high-intensity interval training. A second group added two supervised moderate-intensity continuous training workouts per week. All three groups continued their assigned workouts for five years.

At the conclusion of the trial, 4.6% of the participants had died, but there was no significant difference in death rates between the group that followed the modest federal exercise recommendations and the two groups that did the more intense workouts. In addition, all groups had similar levels of cardiovascular disease and deaths from cancer.

However, that’s not to say that participating in regular high-intensity workouts wasn’t linked to any benefits. The participants who did the harder workouts had better outcomes on certain measures of mental health and physical fitness.

By: Harward Health Publishing

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Mayo Proceedings

Dr. Carl -Chip- Lavie, Professor of Medicine in the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, Ochsner Clinical School and the University of Queensland School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana, in an Editorial appearing in the September 2014 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, clarifies the difference between elite and extreme athletes, and demonstrates that more is not better with regard to exercise. Peak benefits are gained from 30-40 and less than 60 minutes daily of moderate exercise. Available at: http://tinyurl.com/nu74s77

Is Running Actually Good For Your Knees

Contrary to popular belief, a new study from the University of Maryland has found that running could actually be good for your knees. While the study confirms that running pummels the knees more than walking, the process can also help fortify and bulk up cartilage, potentially helping stave off arthritis. Dr Kelly Sheerin, who is the Sports Performance Clinics Manager and a Senior Lecturer at AUT, joins the show to discuss.

You’ll know you’ve arrived as a runner when you get your first lecture on how you’re going to destroy your knees. This “advice” is usually based on the idea that running increases your risk of developing osteoarthritis in your knees. But the truth is, it doesn’t.

Below we’ll look at the evidence and explanation for why that’s the case. We’ll also examine how best to lower your risk of incurring the most common running-related knee injuries. Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to be a living refutation to the idea that running will eventually ruin your knees.

Running and Osteoarthritis in the Knees

This should be stated as clearly as possible: Numerous studies have shown that runners have lower rates of knee osteoarthritis than sedentary people. For example, in one study that followed runners and non-runners for almost 20 years, X-rays showed signs of arthritis in the knees of 20 percent of the runners, but 32 percent of the non-runners.

A potential counterargument against such results is that, when the studies are started, the long-time runners that take part have above-average structural health—they don’t include people who started running but had to give it up because their bodies broke down.

Research has rebutted that idea as well. One study followed more than 2,000 people for several years to see how many developed arthritic knees. The participants gave detailed information about how often and how severely they had knee pain. They also described their current and former exercise habits. In other words, the participants weren’t selected because of whether they were or weren’t runners.

But it turned out that running status did matter. In frequency of knee pain, symptoms of arthritis, and evidence of arthritis on X-ray, current runners had significantly better scores than non-runners. For example, current runners were 29 percent less likely than non-runners to report frequent knee pain. Even former runners were less likely to report knee pain and show signs of arthritis than non-runners. That last finding is the opposite of what should be the case if running ruined their knees and caused them to give up the sport.

There’s also good evidence that running and knee arthritis isn’t a case of play now, pay later, in terms of running increasing your chances of physical limitations as an older person. In one study, researchers matched members of a running club with healthy non-runners; all the study participants were at least 50 years old at the beginning of the study. The researchers followed up with the participants 21 years later. Not only were more of the runners still alive, but they also reported significantly fewer physical limitations.

Part of the researchers’ conclusion was that “running at middle and older ages is associated with reduced disability in later life.”

Why Might Runners Have Lower Rates of Knee Osteoarthritis?

To answer this question, it helps to know current thinking on osteoarthritis.

Arthritis is inflammation in joints, the points in your body where bones come together (knees, hips, wrists, etc.). Osteoarthritis is arthritis characterized by thinning and breakdown of cartilage, the protective tissue at the ends of bones. Osteoarthritis used to be considered a “wear and tear” disease, with body parts seen as analogous to machinery that inevitably breaks down. That model is no longer widely believed by medical experts. Instead, osteoarthritis is considered a disease of the joint, with multiple potential causes.

With this more nuanced understanding of osteoarthritis, running’s potential protection against developing it makes more sense. First, runners tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than the average person, and any extra weight increases strain on joints. In one long-term study, runners had lower rates of osteoarthritis and hip replacements than walkers and other more casual exercisers. The researchers cited the runners’ lower BMIs as one of the probable explanations.

Being overweight is also associated with chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body; by helping you to stay at a good weight, running makes it less likely that your joints will be subject to this potentially damaging inflammation.

There’s also good evidence that, as with the rest of your body, knee cartilage is subject to the use-it-or-lose-it principle. Rather than breaking down your joints, running helps to keep them lubricated and stimulates your body to build new cartilage. Researchers have also found that running conditions your cartilage to become more resilient as it adapts to the demands of running. Sedentary people who have developed osteoarthritis are advised to exercise regularly for these very reasons.

What If Your Knees Are Already in Bad Shape?

It’s one thing to say that running will likely lower your risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. But what if you already have it, or some other chronic knee issue? Is running out of the picture for you?

Research in this area is encouraging. One study followed people who were at least 50 years old and had osteoarthritis in at least one knee. At the end of the eight-year study, runners reported less knee pain, and imaging showed that their arthritis hadn’t progressed.

In a four-month study of middle-aged people, imaging found evidence of damage (not necessarily arthritis) in most of the people’s knees. After half of the study subjects did a four-month marathon training program, MRIs of their knees showed less damage than at the start of the study. That finding meshed with the results of a study that found that, after four months of moderate exercise, knee cartilage health improved in middle-aged people at risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Related Story More Evidence That Running Won’t Ruin Your Knees

“Listen to your body” is excellent advice for all runners. In the case of runners with preexisting knee pain, that means to let your symptoms guide you in how much running, and what type, is tolerable. Take heart that as you go about this trial-and-error process, there’s good reason to believe running won’t worsen your condition over time.

How to Lower Your Risk for Common Knee Injuries

None of this is to suggest that runners are immune to knee injuries. In one study of more than 2,000 runners treated at a sports medicine clinic, knee injuries were three of the five most common types. (The top five were patella femoral syndrome, a.k.a. runner’s knee, iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, meniscus tears, and shin splints.)

But it’s important to remember that most running knee injuries, like most running injuries in general, are overuse injuries. They’re caused by more cumulative stress to a given body part than your body is currently equipped to handle. Knee injuries aren’t a given, and they aren’t likely to cause permanent damage unless you ignore them and don’t try to fix the underlying issues that led to the injury.

There’s a growing body of research suggesting that knee injuries are often caused by weakness or instability elsewhere in the body, especially the hips. That’s why strengthening programs for avoiding or overcoming knee injuries often focus on exercises for your quads and glutes. The video below offers six exercises that will help keep your knees—and the rest of your body—in proper working order. Just do the exercises twice a week (or more if you are injury-prone).

If you have a history of knee injuries, you might also benefit from slightly (slightly!) altering your running form.

Backed by research, many sports medicine experts advise increasing your running cadence (the number of steps you take in a minute) by 5 to 10 percent if you can’t seem to shake knee injuries. The reason: A shorter, quicker gait should shift running’s impact forces from your knees to your lower legs. Although there’s no one ideal cadence for all runners, if you can see your feet making first contact with the ground when you run, you’re probably overstriding. Doing so places enormous braking forces on your knees, and is linked to an increased risk of injury.

By The Runner’s World Editors

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The Running Channel

“Running is bad for your joints”. “It will wreck your knees”. “You’ll need a knee replacement in 20 years”. If you’re a runner, you’re probably familiar with some of these comments, mostly from non-runners. So is running ACTUALLY bad for your knees? Watch and find out! ↓↓ Ever been told running’s bad for your knees? What other myths about running do you want to see us look at? Tells us in the comments below ↓↓ Links to studies quoted: Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk, Paul Williams https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2… Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity, Progress in Cardiovascular Disease journal https://www.sciencedirect.com/science… ——————– CHECK OUT OUR NEW MERCH → teespring.com/en-GB/stores/the-runnin… → FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/OfficialRunn… ← → INSTAGRAM – https://www.instagram.com/runningchannel ← → TWITTER – https://twitter.com/runningchannel ← → STRAVA – https://www.strava.com/clubs/runningc… ← Or get in touch with us by sending an email to hello@therunningchannel.com

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