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9 Natural Ways for Runners to Maintain Healthy Joints

According to the CDC (1), regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Not only can exercise help you shed a few pesky pounds, it also reduces your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It strengthens bones and muscle, reduces the risk of depression, may even help you get a good night’s sleep! 

Experts recommend (2)150 minutes per week of aerobic activity for optimal wellness, which works out to be about 30 minutes, 5 times per week. While any kind of aerobic activity will do the trick, running is one of the easiest, cheapest and most accessible ways to get your heart pumping. There is no gym membership required, all you need to get started is a decent pair of running shoes, and there are literally hundreds of free resources and courses online for everyone from beginners, to advanced runners hoping to improve their form and time. 

However, because running is a high impact exercise, it can be particularly tough on weight-bearing joints like knees and hips. So, whether you’ve just caught the running bug, or have been pounding the pavement for years, it’s essential that you keep your joints healthy and avoid common running injuries which could slow you down for months, or put you firmly on the bench for even longer. 



1. Weight Management

If you’ve ever stood on the sidelines of a marathon, you will have noticed that runners come in all shapes and sizes. Running does not discriminate and there is no physical requirement needed to cross that finish line. Any able bodied person with the willpower and desire can train to run impressive distances. However, have you noticed that professional speed and distance athletes tend to be lean and small framed? It stands to reason that the less weight you have to carry, the faster you’ll be able to move, and the less stress you’ll put on your joints. 

You don’t have to be at your goal weight to run, but pay attention to the weight you’re carrying and if you’ve got a few pounds to lose, be aware that your body is working harder to keep you moving. If your joints are hurting, be sure to add rest days to your routine to avoid injury and build some strength training into your routine to help you stabilize. If you’re running as part of a weight management plan, make sure that you’re accurately measuring the calories you’re burning before you replace them with extra calories in your diet. 

2. Surfaces

While it may be unavoidable, as much as possible, avoid running on hard surfaces like concrete pavements and stone paths. Running by nature is a high impact sport and these are pretty unforgiving materials that transfer stress to your knees and hips

Instead, try running on grass or earth trails, look for a synthetic track in your area or head to the gym for a treadmill. While asphalt is not ideal, it is better than concrete, so if you live in a quiet neighborhood, run in the road instead of on the pavement. Remember to play it safe by running against the direction of potential traffic so that you can see oncoming vehicles clearly, don’t wear headphones and if you must run at night, wear reflective clothing. 

It can be hard to run on the perfect surface every time you train, so at the very least, try to mix it up and change locations every now and then, and wherever you run, remember that safety should always be your number one priority

3. Nutrition

Supplements are a great way to support healthy joints and bones, especially if you’re doing a lot of high impact exercise. Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally occurring nutrients that experts believe help the body maintain fluid and flexibility in and around your joints and bones. You can find these nutrients in shellfish and some animal tissue. 

4. Stride Rate

The amount of steps you take per minute is an important factor in not only how fast you run, but how much stress you put on your knees. Instead of taking long strides to increase your pace, aim for shorter steps which can help you run faster and decrease the force that your quadriceps place on the kneecap. While there’s no perfect stride rate, the golden rule is to be at or above 160 steps per minute

To figure out your stride rate, count the number of times your right foot hits the floor in one minute, and then double that number. If you fall under 160, try to increase your stride rate in 5% increments. Music is your best friend when working on strides or pace and there are a number of music apps which allow you to enter the BPM you’re aiming for and then curate a playlist around that speed. Simply find the music that matches your target rate and run to the beat. You’ll be hitting 160 in no time, and you’ll probably have some fresh new tunes in your earbuds as a nice bonus! 

5. Shoes

According to the experts at Harvard (3), the human body was literally built to run. While other mammals may crush us in the speed department, the shape of our bodies, our leg length, ability to sweat, and the way that our spinal discs are built to absorb shock, all point towards a body that has evolved to run mile after mile. Many theories indicate that long-distance running may have been a key part of our early hunting strategy and has had a significant impact on our evolution

While our ancestors likely ran barefoot, they were also not only smaller in stature and lighter, but they were not running on concrete and asphalt roads. 

A pair of good quality, purpose-built and well-fitted running shoes are the only essential piece of equipment you need to become a runner. While these can be somewhat expensive, the investment is well worth it, a good pair of running shoes will help you avoid injury and should make running an overall more pleasant experience. 

Most running speciality stores offer shoe fittings for free. A trained member of staff will observe you running on a treadmill and recommend the best pair of shoes for your specific build and gait. Once you have the perfect pair of shoes, you’ll need to replace them once the sole becomes too worn to absorb the shock of your feet pounding the pavement. Expert opinions vary on how often running shoes should be replaced, the consensus lands somewhere between 300 and 600 miles which is a very large window. If you notice any pain in your legs when you run, particularly in your knees, check the soles of your shoes. If the tread looks significantly worn, it may be time for a new pair. If in doubt, take them into a running store and ask the experts there to help you, a reputable store will show you where the tread has worn out, and explain why you may need a new pair. 

6. Form

Paying attention to your form is essential to avoid injury, particularly if you are running regularly. One of the easiest things you can do to lessen the impact on your knees is simply lean forward as you run. As simple as it sounds, studies (4) show that this move transfers your weight from your knees to your hips which are much more robust and powerful joints, designed to withstand more impact and carry more weight

You don’t have to adjust your form too much to feel the benefit, simply lean in from the waist somewhere between seven and ten degrees as you run..

7. Anti-Inflammatory Diet

If you’re pushing your body to do more, it’s important to give it the right fuel. Just like a car, our bodies run on energy, and if your tank is empty of essential nutrients, you’re not going to get very far. Not only will a healthy diet help you to lose a few pounds and reduce the stress on hard-working joints, but an anti-inflammatory diet supports healthy joints and may help you recover from injury faster, or avoid it all together. 

Concentrate on eating plenty of leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, other great sources of these essential nutrients are berries and anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger. Up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon. You’ll also want to avoid added sugar, hydrogenated oils and processed foods. 

We love this refreshing recipe for Ginger & Watermelon Juice, a great after or before run beverage that contains all the anti-inflammatory benefits of ginger and supports good circulation throughout the body. 

Add 1 cup of fresh diced watermelon to a blender with 1 & ½ cups of the chilled herbal tea of your choice. We recommend bright, fresh flavors like raspberry or pomegranate. Add 1 tsp of fresh ginger (to experience full antioxidant power do NOT substitute with ginger powder). Add 1 small pinch of sea salt which is an effective natural electrolyte, and 1 tsp of coconut sugar. While we don’t recommend adding sugar to drinks in general, the glucose in the sugar here helps your body to absorb the electrolytes in the salt. 

Blend until smooth and if you don’t like the pulp, simply strain the mixture before drinking

8. Cross Train

While every runner you know will tell you about the benefits of “runner’s high”, a kind of euphoric rush experienced as endorphins and feel good chemicals flood the brain during exercise, they will also tell you about the importance of avoiding injury

Even if running faster or for longer distances may be your ultimate goal, it shouldn’t be the only form of exercise you do. Adding some form of cross training to your exercise routine strengthens the muscles around your joints and in your core, which gives you more overall stability and improves both your time and distance in the long run (pun intended). You’ll wind up running further and faster sooner than you would with running alone and you’ll be reaping the benefits of that runners high in no time. 

Choose low impact activities like swimming or cycling, and resist the temptation to cross-train on rest days. Your body does need the occasional break from exercise to recover and repair tired muscles. 

9. Stretch

Stretching is an essential part of any running routine, supple muscles support healthy joints, assist you in avoiding injury and keep you moving safely. 

You don’t want to stretch cold muscles as this does more harm than good, so don’t stretch before a run. You can perform some light stretches once you’ve warmed up for 10 minutes or so and save your serious stretching for after your run. 

Be gentle with your body and ease into your stretching routine. Don’t use force yourself into positions that feel resistant and avoid bouncing in position. Slow and steady is the way to go here, gently lean into your stretches on an exhale and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds before release. 

Running is a wonderful, low cost, high reward exercise, and the benefits in terms of mood and fitness are almost immediate. Whether you’re an experienced runner, or a beginner, it is essential that you take care of your joints to avoid injury and remain a regular runner for years to come. To support healthy joints try to maintain a healthy weight, be aware of the surfaces you run on, pay attention to your form and stride rate, build strong muscles with cross-training and stretching and look after yourself with a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. 

Pure Vitality

Pure Vitality a natural supplement company based in an isolated village nestled against the snow-capped Southern Alps of New Zealand. We research health conditions thoroughly to discover the underlying root causes, find the most effective natural remedies, target the root causes rather than use a Band-Aid approach, use a multi-prong approach to fix the root causes from many directions and use high potency ingredients at scientifically supported amounts.

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
(2) https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
(3) https://blog.mapmyrun.com/ideal-runners-body-type/
(4) https://www.shape.com/fitness/cardio/training-tips-prevent-knee-pain-running
Exercise health benefits: How running changes your brain and body - Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-running-2018-4#running-is-a-great-way-to-burn-calories-7

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