Running is a great way to develop your cardio. However, it puts a lot of pressure on your joints. But don’t worry: you don’t need to choose between the health of your heart and your knees: with some precautions, you can take care of both!
Treadmills partially protect your joints
Combining both cardio training and muscle strengthening, running is particularly beneficial to your health. It strengthens your legs as well as your back and abs, improving your posture. If there’s a disadvantage, it’s probably the negative effect it can have on your joints, which suffer little shocks with each stride you make. This is even worse if you’re running on hard (like asphalt, if you’re in the city) or uneven ground.
A treadmill offers a much softer landing. You run on even “ground,” and its built-in cushioning reduces impact, sparing your joints.
However, even on a treadmill, you should take some precautions to protect your joints as much as possible. Be sure to take special care of your ankles and knees, as well as your hips.
Over 1,000 pounds on just one leg?
When you walk or run, you put all the weight of your body on one leg at a time with every step. And the momentum and acceleration of the average run actually multiplies the impact to the equivalent of 6-8 times your weight. That’s a lot of pounds (and pounding) on each of your two legs – and more particularly, on the supporting hip, knee and ankle joints.
For example, a 175 lb runner going at a moderately fast pace will put the equivalent of 1,056 pounds of force on the right hip and then the left hip, with each stride. That’s pretty intense: over a mile, that will happen 1,280 times. Your joints are really being put to the test!
The 9 commandments of joint protection
To protect your leg joints when training on your treadmill, you need to take some precautions.
1. Wear good shoes
Just like when running outdoors, shoes are an important part of treadmill running. You need a good pair of trainers to maintain your footing, get good traction, and reduce shock on your ankles, as well as your knees and hips. Choose shoes specifically designed for running, and don’t skimp on quality: your health is at stake.
2. Drink plenty of liquids
If you become dehydrated, your whole body suffers. That includes your joints. Remember that the cartilage in your joints is 75% water. So drink a lot of water during your workouts.
3. Try dietary supplements
Natural dietary supplements can help you to protect your joints. Find horsetail extract, omega 3 oils and other products in specialised shops and pharmacies. Some sports physicians will recommend one or two dosages per year.
4. Don’t skip the warm-up
Don’t neglect or shorten the stretching and warm-up exercises you do before your workout: they also prepare your joints for the movements you will perform, as well as the resulting tensions and pressures.
5. Orthotics: not for the long term
You wouldn’t categorise it as “pain” in your knee or ankle just yet… Maybe a “strain,” definitely a discomfort. If it’s bothering you that much but not enough to cancel your workout, wear an orthotic device to support the affected joint. But be careful: don’t make it a regular habit, as it could weaken the joint over time.
6. Don’t overtrain
Do you love your treadmill so much that you want to do 3 workouts a day? Very bad idea. You have to give your body time to recover. Your muscles need it, and your joints do, too.
7. Check with a professional
Do you twist your ankles a lot? Maybe it’s a posture or alignment issue. It’s a good idea to consult with a professional: a sports physician or an osteopath. You might find an osteopath can fix the problem, or maybe custom orthopedic insoles are the answer.
8. Watch your weight
When you put on weight, it’s your ankles, knees and hips that will have to carry the extra load. When you run, your legs have to support the equivalent of 6-8 times your weight (see box). Add 10 lbs more, and that’s 60-80 lbs more on your joints with each stride over the course of your run.
9. Select the right treadmill
You also need to choose a quality treadmill: one that offers you the space for ample and fluid strides, good cushioning, and easy adjustability. NordicTrack’s cutting edge treadmills, such as its RUNNERS FLEX™, Flex Select and Reflex lines, reduce joint impact by 15% compared to running on asphalt. When you choose NordicTrack, you’re getting the accumulated knowledge and knowhow of the N° 1 home fitness equipment manufacturer in the industry!