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Middle age isn't too far away for me. I love to run, and do squats. When the weather's nice my week will be something like: squats, day off, run, 2 days off, squats... Spring's come and I've started the running (have been squatting all winter). Now I have some knee pain.

My question is, do knees typically "go bad" in middle age, so that one can't really keep up a semi-aggressive lifting and run routine as they did before or, will knees hold up (and be strengthened) as long as one doesn't overdo it?

Obviously the answer's subjective to a large degree but I'm guessing there's a large enough general component here to warrant a question.

  • Age-related wear and tear can accumulate and become evident as osteoarthritis. Prolonged heavy exercise in the past can contribute to it. Osteoarthritis can be detected by X-ray, for example. Many people at 50 can run without knee pain, so... – Jan Apr 29 at 16:10
  • Unfortunately, there isn't even a general enough component to make a good question. I know people that run and do competitive bodybuilding at age 60 with no problems, and guys that had to quit running at 28. It could be as simple as you need new shoes, up to some real damage. There simply is no real way to tell. – JohnP Apr 29 at 16:22
  • When you say "squats, day off, run,..." are you saying that you do an exercise session that is nothing but squats? If so, is this 45 minutes of squats? – Chris Apr 29 at 17:38
  • @chris - 5x5 squats on squat days (every 3-4 days), running when the weather's nice. Just averaging and saying squats, day off, run, couple days off, etc. – horse hair Apr 29 at 17:43
  • Hurts where? Doing squats and running could have stressed quadriceps insertion. – ColonelFazackerley Apr 30 at 11:03
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Many people experience more aches and pains as they age. However, it's not a guarantee. Knees don't just 'go bad' most of the time and pain doesn't automatically mean there is damage either.

Sure there are some disorders like osgood schlatters and osteoarthritis and so on and so forth, but even for these staying active usually helps dramatically with the symptoms. Exercise is still one of the most common recommendations for pretty much any health issue, including musculoskeletal.

It's possible the knee pain is because you just started running again after some time off. It's also possible the knee pain is because your routine sounds overly repetitive (i.e. overuse injury). It's possible a shoe change or a sock change or a route change is the issue too.

The internet sadly cannot help you here.

You should go and see a physical therapist to address the knee(s). Figure out what the problem is, devise a plan to fix it with your therapist and return to sport.

Contrary to the internet belief that squats cure all, movement variability is important. When you get back into a routine, do keep in mind that you likely need some variety beyond squats (especially if running is your true passion here) unless you want to compete in powerlifting. If you're not a competitive powerlifter, then lunge, deadlift, single leg hinge, step up, side lunge, single leg squat, etc...etc... make sure you have some variety in your routine. Some variety is important, but I wouldn't mix things up every time you train either (you need a few weeks to adapt to any given routine).

I'd discuss this further either with your therapist, or a strength and conditioning coach of some sort.

  • Knew I should have stuck with New Balance. Thanks – horse hair Apr 29 at 19:12
  • @horsehair - Depends. New Balance changes their design quite regularly (As do many shoe companies). NB was my go-to shoe through high school, but then they changed their design and Saucony ended up being my shoe for college seasons. Now I've drifted to Hoka's. YMMV. – JohnP Apr 29 at 19:37
  • @JohnP - exactly why I stopped using NB. Started because that's what was issued to us in the military. Stopped because they changed designs so much that I could never figure out what to buy when my running shoes finally got old. – horse hair Apr 29 at 19:49
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I'm 57 years old and know what middle age is like. I'm a firm believer in change and adapting to the aging process. My workouts today are completely different from what I was doing ten years ago, or even five years ago. If you are doing the same workout now that you were doing ten years ago (squats), this is a problem.

As I have aged, I have minimized repetitive movement at the gym. Let me explain: I go to the gym three days a week and stretch one day a week at home. At the gym, I typically do twenty five different movements (exercises) in an hour. With a few exceptions, I don't repeat movements. (Many of my exercises are unilateral, so I have a set for the left and right side.) The point is that I have a highly varied exercise "diet", and I avoid repetitive movement as much as I can. This spreads the wear and tear of exercise evenly over my joints. For the most part, each of my three days at the gym consists of different movements. At 57 yrs, I have almost no joint discomfort, so I think this theory of spreading wear and tear really works.

If you are doing only squats when you go to the gym, I would suggest you are creating your problem. It is time to branch out. Go to youtube and look up random exercises, and make it your goal to try one new exercise every time you are in the gym. If you enjoy an exercise, put it in your routine. If you don't enjoy it, forget it. Over the period of a year, you will be able to create a routine that minimizes repetitive movement. Gradually, squats will become a smaller component of your exercise diet.

To help you get started, one of my favorite new exercises is in this video at 5:57. Watch carefully because it is quick:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWqKjte2hoc

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JohnP May 1 at 20:51

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