DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Several people have written to you about challenges we face with exercise as we get older. I would like to suggest that you consider recommending yoga. I practice yoga. There are several styles of yoga, and I believe anyone could benefit from one of those styles. – H.Y.

For some, yoga connotes a mix of meditation and movement for relaxation, but for all, yoga is an excellent exercise. As you say, many types of yoga are in vogue, and that allows everyone to choose a type best suited for his or her physical condition and goals.

Hatha yoga is a popular yoga method. It consists of moving into and out of specific postures while focusing on breathing mechanics. The movements are done as smoothly as possible. Such fluid motion promotes flexibility, increases joint range of motion and enhances balance. Balance is a big problem for many older people. Loss of it is responsible for many falls and many broken bones. Few exercises are as valuable for restoring balance as yoga is.

Since many yoga positions require weight-bearing, they strengthen muscles and bones.

Bikram yoga is performed in a heated room with moves done somewhat rapidly. The heat increases a person’s flexibility and increases blood flow to muscles and joints. This kind of yoga is challenging even to the dedicated exerciser.

Slow-motion yoga might not be the best exercise for the heart, but the other benefits it brings pay great dividends.

Yoga can be adapted to everyone and to just about every physical disability. Arthritis patients find it most helpful.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 44-year-old woman and have been exercising faithfully for the past four years. I feel quite fit, but how do I know for sure? How can I test myself for fitness? I would like some objective evidence that these past four years have done something for me. – R.C.

A slew of books have tests for evaluation of fitness. You can find them in every library. For incontrovertible evidence of heart fitness, a stress test provides proof and an echo stress test provides even greater proof. These are specialized and expensive tests and shouldn’t be done on a whim.

Many years ago, the University of California’s Wellness Letter published fitness tests devised by Dr. James Rippe. I’ll borrow some that apply to you.

If a woman in her 40s can walk one mile in 14 minutes or less, she’s put in the “very good” category of fitness. A man of the same age qualifies for that level of fitness if he can walk the mile in 12 minutes and 54 seconds or less.

For strength, women in their 40s should be able to do 27 dumbbell curls with a 5-pound weight to qualify for the top strength position. A curl is performed with the exerciser holding on to the dumbbell and with the arm hanging straight down. The elbow is bent so the dumbbell is brought up to the shoulder. Both arms are tested.

A man of the same age should be able to do 34 or more curls to make it to the highest category.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My stomach sags around the belly button. My doctor says it’s an umbilical hernia. There’s no discomfort or pain. Will 100 sit-ups a day fix this? – L.W.

A thousand sit-ups a day will not fix it. Sit-ups could make it worse. Only surgery can fix it. Any exercise that increases pressure within the abdomen can make the hernia protrude more. If this bothers you, get a surgeon’s opinion.

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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