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Can training for a marathon actually damage your bones and joints?

Christopher C. Bell, MD
Sports Medicine

There is NO research data that shows running leads to arthritis. In fact, there is a recently published study that backs this up and even shows the opposite. When it comes to osteoarthritis, people who are active (including runners) suffer from it less than those who are sedentary. 

However, while training for marathons you can potentially cause short-term damage to bones and tendons, such as stress fractures and tendonitis. Most of the time these can be taken care of under the supervision of a sports medicine physician and you can get back out on the roads (or trails). 

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Finishing a marathon will earn you many things: a medal, increased cardiovascular stamina, and blisters the size of Australia. While I respect marathoners and admire their passion, dedication, and athleticism, I can't endorse the training it takes to complete one.

The constant pounding your joints take with every step increases the likelihood that you'll suffer from joint problems and osteoarthritis down the road. And once your run exceeds more than 18 to 20 miles, you are likely to be consuming your own muscle proteins to provide energy.

Sure, I'd love to see you cross the finish line, but I'd also like to see you finish the race of life in the best-and youngest-shape possible. To live long and young, you need to be physically active. But too much activity can actually put the accelerator on aging, instead of the brakes.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.