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Any Exercise Is Better Than None; Hemp and Drug Tests

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 60-year-old female who is 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds. For the past 10 years, I have not exercised because of arthritis in the knees. I have owned a stationary bicycle for years. Now I regularly use this machine. It does not cause pain in my knees. Since the machine causes you to push and pull against your body weight, is this exercise sufficient for recommended daily exercise? Can this be considered strength training? Should I make myself walk and lift weights? — R.

Answer: I have believed through my career that exercise is critical for maintaining good health, for preventing disease and even for treating some medical conditions. The medical literature increasingly supports this view. So I am delighted to hear that you have found a kind of exercise that you can do without pain and that, most importantly, you are doing.

Any (safe) exercise is better than no exercise, from the standpoint of your heart and overall health. You often will hear the advice “at least 20 minutes a day of moderate intensity, at least three times per week,” which is well enough, but that amount isn’t possible for some people, especially when starting out, and is less than the optimal amount for most people.

I think you will find that the bicycling exercise will make it easier to walk. Walking puts a bit more stress on your bones as well as your joints, but that stress translates into more strength and less risk of osteoporosis. The more you walk, the more you will be able to walk. Different exercises have different benefits, so changing things up may have more benefit. If you try walking and weights, you may be surprised how easy it is after a few times and how much better you feel.

Dear Dr. Roach: I have recently been hearing from friends that they are spending $400 per month or more on supplements and that a local practitioner is selling lots of pills to them each month. He is also strongly discouraging traditional medicines, and he sends them cards in the mail suggesting that a visit to his office is overdue. All the pill bottles have a statement that says, “This product does not diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” My friends are avid health-conscious people who exercise every day and are trim and eat healthy foods. Is taking all these supplements a good idea? What advice can you give? — A.F.

Answer: My short answer is that for most people, only a few (if any) supplements are of ANY benefit (these might include vitamin D).

A recent scientific article, using DNA evidence to look at actual contents of pills, found that many of the supplements sold aren’t what they are supposed to be. I feel that some supplements can be beneficial, but many or even most are at best a placebo, often a waste of money and at worst actively harmful to health.

Dear Dr. Roach: My question involves knowing that poppyseed consumption can result in urine testing positive for drugs in your body. Right now, there is a health movement that is suggesting that hemp seeds contain good protein and healthy fats and should be part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Would consumption of hemp seeds also result in the same situation, with positive drug-test results? — Anon.

Answer: Hemp seeds indeed contain high-quality protein and healthy fats, and may help reduce inflammation. Based on manufacturer’s information as well as a scientific study, the likelihood of having a positive drug test for marijuana is very small.

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 ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or write to P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.