Health Advice



Slow walking exercise still beneficial for those with joint pain

By Keith Roach, M.D. on

DEAR DR. ROACH: Seniors are advised that one of the best forms of exercise is walking. The advice is to "walk briskly" for at least 150 minutes per week. There are those of us who, because of knee or hip pain, or other reasons, are not able to walk briskly. Does that mean that we shouldn't bother to walk at all? I would think that walking slowly would be better than not walking. What would you say? -- A.S.

ANSWER: I would agree with you 100%. Any exercise you can do that is safe and fun for you is a good exercise. Walking is a great exercise for most people, and walking briskly gives you cardiovascular benefits. But, walking at a leisurely pace is much, much better than not exercising at all. 150 minutes is great, but people receive some benefit at lower amounts. So, 150 is normally a goal that many people work toward.

Most people with arthritis in the hips and knees find that regular activity, even slow walking, helps with the stiffness and allows them to do more. However, some people find that reducing the impact on the joints, such as when swimming in a pool, is better.

DEAR DR ROACH: Are there any double-blind studies verified by peer review that support the concept of alleviation of osteoarthritis (or rheumatoid arthritis) symptoms and pain by wearing a knee brace or ankle brace with copper threads? I keep seeing ads for knee braces and socks with copper threads that "cure" arthritis. I'm a skeptic, by the way. I also do not believe that BPH can be "cured" by ingesting saw palmetto, or that arthritis can be cured by ingesting fish oil. -- N.O.

ANSWER: I think you already know the answer. There are no studies that show that copper is helpful for arthritis. (The vast majority of older adults with arthritis pain have osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious, multi-system illness that requires urgent help by an expert to prevent permanent joint damage). Compression garments may help someone feel better, but they do not reverse, stop or slow down the progression of arthritis. The copper component has no medical value. For centuries, copper bracelets have been a folk remedy for arthritis, and I suspect that may be the reason for this marketing strategy.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I'm nearly 88 years old, and I take only two medications for thyroid and high blood pressure. I have just been diagnosed with a small benign tumor on my pituitary gland, believed to be slow-growing.

My question is, should I avoid worrying about it, or should I have it removed? My doctor stated it's been there for some time already. -- M.W.


ANSWER: A person can understandably get nervous about having a brain tumor, but incidentally, finding brain tumors are quite common on MRI scans. The information you sent me shows a 3-mm microadenoma, which is, as you correctly say, a small and almost certainly benign tumor. Most experts would do blood testing (for a hormone called prolactin), and if that is normal, it is unlikely that the tumor will ever bother you. I would recommend against any kind of treatment if this is the case.

Even though there is effective treatment, there is no need to consider treatment if you don't have any symptoms. A tumor this small is unlikely to grow large enough to bother you.


Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to or send mail to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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