It’s long been speculated that running can do a number on your knees, the widespread theory being that it can deteriorate your cartilage and even lead to arthritis.

A new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, however, indicates that running could actually be preventing degenerative disorders in the long run.

Brigham Young University researchers examined synovial fluid from the knees of 30 young and healthy people, and found dramatically lowered levels of inflammatory molecules after the participants took a 30-minute run. This was compared to a second study group whose participants were tasked with sittings for 30 minutes.

The researchers also found that COMP (cartilage oligomeric matrix protein – a substance present in the synovial fluid of diseased or arthritic knees) decreased in runners, while sitting produced increased COMP levels.

“What we know now...is that for [healthy individuals] exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health,” said Robert Hyldahl, the report’s lead author.

Past studies of long-term runners have also shown a decrease in the occurrence of osteoarthritis compared to non-runners.

If you’re still not feeling inspired to hit the track, consider the data gathered from those in the sitting group of the most recent study. Sitting could actually make your knees “biochemically more vulnerable,” says New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds.

So, consider lacing up – your knees may thank you in the long run.

h/t Travel and Leisure, The New York Times