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Running helps stave off osteoarthritis in the hip and knee – but only if the runner doesn’t overdo it, according to a new study.

The recreational runners among us are less likely than sedentary people to have hip and joint problems, according to the study in the latest issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy.

But the group that most likely to have problems in these joints are the extreme runners, who run competitively and at elite levels for long miles over many years, according to the meta-analysis.

“The novel finding in our investigation is the increased association between running an arthritis in competitive, but not in recreational, runners,” said Eduard Alentorn-Geli, the lead author, from Fundacion Garcia-Cugat, and the Mayor Clinic, among other institutions.

The authors from Spain, Sweden, the U.S. and Canada looked at 17 studies that included more than 114,000 people, the paper reports.

The results: the sedentary people who did not run for exercise had a 10.2 percent rate of arthritic joints.

That rate was just 3.5 percent for the recreational runners.

That rate shot to 13.3 percent for the high-intensity runners, who identified themselves in the studies are professional or elite athletes, or who had participated in international competitions. (Some other similar defined these intense athletes as running more than 57 miles per week).

But there were factors that were not accounted for – including previous injuries, obesity or occupational workload, they added.

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