Ways to deal with a sedentary lifestyle

Updated at: Nov 19, 2010
Ways to deal with a sedentary lifestyle

Sitting for hours in front of the computer, agonisingly long commutes and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle have resulted in a host of problems. Explore them!

Sudeshna Chowdhury
Sports and FitnessWritten by: Sudeshna ChowdhuryPublished at: Nov 19, 2010

Sitting for  hours in front of the computer, agonisingly long commutes and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle have resulted in a host of problems


Rohit Taru (25) IT professional, was in for a rude shock when his doctor told him that his Vitamin D was so low that it could not be detected. Taru had never dreamt that a simple backache could be due to a lack of the sunshine vitamin.  "I had never thought that the pain was due to lack of Vitamin D," says Taru.


It's better to be safe than sorry

  • Excessive use of the mouse can cause carpal tunnel syndrome where a patient might experience numbness or a tingling sensation in the arm, which can even extend to the nerve or shoulder area
  • Arm pain and numbness, postural pain syndrome can be caused of one spends long hours in front of the computer
  • Vitamin D deficiency and incorrect posture can cause backache problem

Various professionals and commuters living in this bustling city, which never sleeps are facing lifestyle problems. Taru is a case in point. He spends between 10 and 12 hours in a day, working on the computer and this may extend to 14 hours when there is more work. Gradually, he developed vitamin deficiency.


"I have been having a backache for the last few years. The pain was increasing daily," says Taru. Recently, when he could no longer bear the throbbing pain he visited a doctor.  His doctor told him that the Vitamin D deficiency in him could be attributed to his sedentary lifestyle and the long hours he spent indoors.


Computer-related in


With increasing hours in front of the computer and social networking activities Mumbaikars are becoming more prone to Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) or Computer Related Injuries (CRI) than ever before.  Dr Hemant Bhandari, consultant orthopaedic surgeon in Bombay Hospital is a concerned man, "We are seeing these problems on a daily basis now. Professionals from various banks, IT offices and even very young children have been coming to us with backache, neck pain, pain in the bones and Vitamin D deficiency."


If you are reading this article online, you need to think of your body posture. Doctors say we are misusing our bodies. As a result, our physical health is adversely affected. To avoid such problems, doctors recommend regular exercise, outdoor activities and taking frequent breaks after working for every 2-3 hours on a computer.


"If one sits in the correct posture and takes a break after every two hours or so, then such a situation can be avoided," elaborates physiotherapist, Dr.


Shreyas M Katharani who has a clinic in Bandra. Says Dr Anjana Laungani, consultant physiotherapist and rehab specialist, who has a Bandra clinic, "I am seeing, cervical or neck slip disc with arm pain and numbness, postural pain syndrome, something called the trigger finger, and shoulder rotator cuff problems."


Commuting woes


It is not only the nature of work that is responsible for these problems. Commuting for long hours in packed local trains, buses and even in cabs can cause severe back problems.Says Katharani, " Standing causes muscle fatigue.


Hanging on to the handles in the local train and hanging out at the doors can also cause shoulder dislocation." In one such case, recollects Katharani, one of his patients nearly met with a fatal accident after his shoulder got dislocated due to which he fell off the train.


Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Jawahar S Punjwani agrees, "The crowd pushes you around all the time when in the train. Due to this, you tend to get a frozen shoulder. A sudden push can also cause muscle injury. Standing for long hours can cause knee pain in addition to neck pain and lower back pain." He adds, "While in a bus or cab the pressure on the upper part of the body is more when the brake is applied."


Heavy objects


Punjwani says that the number of patients coming with these particular pains has gone up. Like many Mumbaikars, Kalman Karmarkar (36) spends two hours everyday commuting between office and home. After many years of daily commuting, he developed a backache approximately three years ago, but he completely ignored the problem until it became quite acute.


He then used painkillers and even tried homeopathy, but to no avail. " I then went to a doctor, who told me to try and keep the posture straight while working," adds Kamarkar. He says he has been asked not to lift heavy objects because of his weak back.


Apart from commuting, he spent a lot of time in front of the computer, which stiffened his back too. Karmarkar says many of his colleagues are suffering from back problems: "This is mainly because of sedentary lifestyles and desk jobs we have, which do not give us opportunity for outdoor activity."  Kamarkar and Taru's backaches have knocked some sense into their heads. Taru says he has changed his seating habits altogether. "I have changed the chair in my office. Right now I have a support system in my chair called as lumber support which helps me to sit erect," says Taru. He also takes morning walks everyday and exercises regularly to keep fit.




If backaches were not enough, now you can get 'tennis elbow' even without touching a tennis racket, never mind playing. Like so many of us, Chandni Raheja (24) never thought twice before pecking away messages at high speed, replying to bulk emails or punching numbers on her Blackberry. But just two weeks ago, she couldn't use the keyboard for more than ten minutes at a stretch.


Says Raheja, "My right elbow use to pain a lot. So I had to take a break and then do some stretching exercises."  Finally, Raheja visited Dr Anisha Mandhyan, a physiotherapist, who told her that she has got tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is a condition, which is mostly associated with tennis players where the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and the tendons suffer damage.


" I have been asked to reduce the use of the computer mouse and I have also cut down on the frequency of messages. In addition to that, I am using an elbow band and applying gel," says a concerned Raheja.


Excessive use of the mouse can result in wrist pain and it might cause severe pain in the arm region too. Explains Punjwani, "Excessive use of the mouse can cause carpal tunnel syndrome where a patient might experience numbness or a tingling sensation in the arm, which can even extend to the nerve or shoulder area."


Alarming trend


Changing lifestyle with an increased use of modern gadgets and gizmos is catching up with children too. They can be prized possessions for youngsters but they are causing injuries to them as well. This trend has alarmed doctors. "We have had cases where children as young as eight have come with lifestyle-related problems," says Punjwani.


Kids sit for hours playing games on play stations, which result in backaches and other bodily dysfunction.  Says Dr Laungani, "Kids and teenagers mainly have neck, mid-back pain with stiffness and postural alignment problems. Their spine alignment is abnormal like scoliosis, kyphosis, protruding neck and slouch back.


Their numbers are increasing in the last few years."  She adds, "Schoolchildren are definitely subjected to heavy loads on their young backs. As this is the age to develop their spine the undue stress leads to abnormal changes which affect them now as well as later in life."


Heel thyself


Meanwhile, elegant, high-heeled stilettos make women look a few inches taller and hotter maybe, but wearing them often can cause severe pain in the heels. Elaborates Punjwani: "This can cause plantar fasciitis where due to inflammation there is pain on the underside of the heel. It is mainly caused due to the pressure exerted on your arch."


It is evident then, gizmos and gadgets have made our life easier but they have also affected our bodies adversely. So, the next time you plan to sit for hours in front of your computer just remember that anything in excess is bad.



  • After sitting in front of a computer for an hour take a break for five minutes. Do some stretching exercises to relax your muscles.
  • Go out for a walk in the morning or engage in some outdoor activity. A little bit of exposure to sunlight can reduce the risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Try and keep your posture erect while working or travelling. Incorrect posture is a major cause for most of the lifestyle related problems.
  • Go to a doctor when you have the slightest pain. Do not wait for the pain to aggravate.
  • Woman should avoid wearing high heels everyday. No doubt they make you look gorgeous but they can also cause severe backache.
  • Many people are now buying ergonomic furniture and accessories to reduce stress injuries. Some keyboards in the market are split into separate pieces to make it more user friendly.




Bernardino Ramazzini, a 17th century physician was the first one to document RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). In his book, De Morbis Artificum which was published in 1793, he wrote that certain work caused physical injuries which affects the natural structure of the body to such an extent that, "that serious diseases gradually develop therefrom."




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