Running with arthritis and achy joints seems counterintuitive, but lacing up your running shoes may be exactly what you need to ease your pain and boost your energy levels. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation recommends that people with arthritis strike up an exercise routine, debunking the popular myth that running is bad for your knees. Running with arthritis involves running on softer surfaces, strength training, flexibility exercises and cross-training. Because your mileage depends on the severity of your arthritis, consult with your doctor before ramping up your training schedule.
Run on softer surfaces. Concrete is approximately ten times harder than asphalt, so running on softer surfaces like grass, dirt, trails or a synthetic track reduces the amount of stress and shock placed on your musculoskeletal system and joints. When you switch to a more forgiving surface, watch your footing. Some softer surfaces demand an increased range of motion from your foot and ankle.
Strength train a few days per week. Sculpting strong muscles disperses the forces around the joints and allows the body to absorb more shock, thereby reducing soreness and stiffness in the joints. Perform both isotonic and isometric exercises. Isotonic exercises like dumbbell curls strengthen the muscles by moving the joints, whereas isometric exercises like planks and side bridges strengthen the muscles without moving the joints.
Protect your joints and reduce your risk of injury with flexibility exercises. The Arthritis Foundation recommends incorporating 15 continuous minutes of stretching and range-of-motion exercises that strengthen and relax stiff muscles every day. Solid flexibility exercises include Tai Chi and yoga. Tai Chi, originally a Chinese martial art, especially helps reduce pain and injury for people with severe knee osteoarthritis.
Supplement your running with more cross-training. On days when your joints flare up, advance your aerobic fitness, increase your mobility and strengthen your muscles with less intensive activities like swimming, cycling, walking and yoga. Cross-training on days you rest from running also revs up your metabolism, helps you stay at an optimal weight, decreases your fatigue and keeps your heart healthy.
Buy new running shoes every 300 to 400 miles.
Build up your exercise routine gradually and be consistent.
Listen to your body signals. If a joint feels hot, consider avoiding exercise until it calms down. Do not overdo strength-training exercises and running workouts. Too much activity during a flareup can worsen symptoms.