DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I think my wife is going too far with exercise. She runs at least 5 miles every day, and often she runs farther. She won’t tell me how much she weighs, but she is very skinny; I can see her ribs. She eats hardly anything. She plays with her food. She has it in her head that she has to watch her weight like a hawk. Will you tell her this isn’t healthy? She’s 27. – M.R.

Sure. Mrs. M.R., your program isn’t healthy.

Your wife either has or is heading toward anorexia. The erroneous mental picture she has of her body is a symptom of anorexia. Her hawklike watch of her calories in the face of strenuous exercise and a very lean body is another anorexia symptom.

She has developed an unhealthy addiction to exercise as a means of keeping her weight far too low. She’s gone overboard.

I bet her menstrual periods aren’t normal. She might not be having any. A woman’s body has to have a certain minimum amount of fat to sustain normal periods. Loss of periods indicates low estrogen levels. Low estrogen levels lead to premature osteoporosis in addition to loss of periods. She’s at an age when she should be banking calcium in her bones to keep them strong now and in the future, when nature lowers estrogen.

Your wife must start taking in more calories and reducing her calorie output by cutting back on exercise. If she can’t see the wisdom of this, you ought to talk her into seeing the family doctor.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Can exercise be overdone? My husband does 100 sit-ups every morning immediately after getting out of bed. Then he eats breakfast. After that he’s at his barbells and dumbbells for more than an hour. Then he jogs for 90 minutes. When he comes home, he does another 100 sit-ups. Following those sit-ups, he bangs on his stomach with his fists as hard as he can.

The afternoon is a repeat of the morning.

He’s 78. Isn’t this a bit much for someone of his age? – C.M.

t’s a bit much for anyone of any age.

The only sure way of knowing if his heart is up to this much physical exertion would be a doctor’s examination. A stress test would probably necessary. He’s putting a great demand on his heart, and, at age 78, most hearts are not getting enough blood to support such a demand.

As far as sit-ups go, he has gone over the top. If he thinks sit-ups selectively remove fat from the stomach area, he’s wrong. No exercise removes fat from a particular body site. Exercise removes fat from all fat depots. Sit-ups strengthen abdominal muscles, and strong muscles hold body organs in place, so they do serve a purpose. But 200 every morning and again in the afternoon is overdoing it.

Pounding on the stomach with fists accomplishes nothing and can endanger stomach organs. That’s something he should stop now.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My only form of exercise is biking, and I love it. When I’m on my bike, I’m in another world and I don’t even realize I am exercising. However, I’ve developed a pain in my right palm. It got so bad that I stopped riding for a week, and then it went away. When I started back, the pain returned. What do you think it is? – R.K.

If the pain is on the thumb side of your palm, it could be pressure on the median nerve as it passes into your wrist. If it’s on the little finger side, it could be pressure on your ulnar nerve. Change the position of your handlebars. Move your seat forward a bit. Wear padded gloves. During long runs, take some rest breaks.

If these changes don’t take care of the pain, then it could be coming from nerves higher up in the arms and even in neck nerves. Should the pain return, you’ll need a doctors examination. This is something that shouldn’t be ignored for long.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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