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Surprising Science

Running: Now Even Healthier

Today, Tara-Parker Pope of the New York Times “Well” blog reports on a flurry of studies suggesting that, contrary to popular opinion, running may in fact be good for your knees. Not only does the repetitive strain have little ill effects, but it can also prevent the arthritis associated with other impact sports. The reason for this is, because running involves constant repetitions of the same movement, the knee’s cartilage becomes accustomed to the motion and creates a “groove” that is resistant to injury. The only danger to this biological trick is that another injury may slightly realign the stride, leading the knee away from the groove and towards arthritis.

Author Christopher McDougall agrees that running is a natural, healthy movement programmed into humans by evolution. In fact, he suggests that the major evil pulling runners away from their natural strides and towards injury is running shoes. The solution? Run barefoot.

In his bestsellerBorn to Run, McDougall makes the case that humans have been programmed to be runners since the evolutionary days of persistence hunts, and that jogging is not only a healthy lifestyle choice, but a path to enlightenment. Following in the footsteps of our ancestors and running barefoot gets a host of extra muscles, like the toes, involved in running, and they align the stride in such a consistent manner that injury can become a thing of the past.  But don’t throw the sneakers away just yet.  If your knees have adjusted to heavily cushioned shoes, graduating out of them can be a tricky process, and doctors advise you take it slow.

Though they likely don’t run barefoot, two Big Thinkers swear by their daily jogs:  Newark mayor Cory Booker and foreign policy journalist Ronen Bergman.


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