DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am considering joining a yoga class. I am 58 and haven’t done much exercise – ever. I think I can handle yoga, as I have two friends, older than I am, who do it and love it. Where does it fit on an exercise scale? – W.B.

That’s a hard question to answer, since there are so many different kinds of yoga, and each has its own unique exercise demands.

The most popular yoga variety in the United States is Hatha yoga, and I think that holds true for Canada as well. This yoga variety relaxes joints and muscles through the assumption of different postures. It emphasizes breathing techniques. It teaches general relaxation – mental and physical – and it stresses mediation for attaining relaxation.

It is an excellent way to keep joints limber. It improves posture. It can greatly lessen tension and stress. It helps combat insomnia. It often eases back pain. It cannot be beat as a way for regaining a sense of balance, a facility that’s lost with aging. The loss of balance is responsible for many falls that happen to older people. Join the class.

If you’re looking for an exercise that burns lots of calories for weight loss, Hatha yoga is not the kind of exercise you want. But you can burn calories in many other ways – walking, for example. Ashtanga yoga is a fast-paced kind of yoga that does burn lots of calories. It might be too much for someone who is just starting to get physical.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have been exercising for three months, and the exercise is very demanding. I am in a small group with an instructor who has the attitude of a drill sergeant. We do some aerobic exercise and lots of weightlifting.

In three months I have lost only six pounds. Weight loss was one of the reasons I got into this program.

However, if you can believe it, I have lost three inches in my waist. Can you explain how I have lost so little weight but have lost considerable inches? – L.M.

With the kind of program you describe, such results are not surprising. They’re almost to be expected.

The shrinkage of your waist indicates that you have lost fat. The only slight decrease in your body weight represents an increase in muscle weight. You’ve replaced fat with muscle. Fat takes up more space than muscle. That’s why your waist size has diminished.

You’re doing something that is greatly desired. Large waists are bad for heart health.

Ideal waist measurements are 35 inches (90 cm) or less for a woman and 40 inches (102 cm) or less for a man.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I work out three times a week on a treadmill for 30 minutes, and then I lift weights for 20 minutes. I am active doing my own housecleaning and yard work. I have ugly, fat, dimply upper arms. I am not overweight. Any suggestions? – Anon.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 57, and my arms have “wings.” Please advise some great exercise for developing those muscles that hang loose. – L.B.

I take it you both have loose tissue hanging from the back of your upper arms. There’s no way to get rid of the tissue other than surgically.

However, you can tighten up the triceps muscle, the muscle on the back of your arm, and add some bulk to it. That will make the dangling skin less noticeable. The time-honored push-up is a good exercise for the triceps and for chest muscles. You lie face down on the floor with the palms on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Push your body straight up. If that is too much for you at first, then keep your knees on the floor and push only the upper part of your body. Do as many push-ups as you can, take a break and repeat.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband doesn’t blink. What’s a normal blinking rate? – B.W.

I can tell you how many blinks a minute are necessary, on average, to keep the eye moist: four. Are your husband’s eyes dry? He’d complain of a gritty sensation if they were, and they would probably always be red. If they’re not dry, then he’s blinking enough to keep his eyes moist, and you must just be missing those blinks.

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