Be a gym gentleman

Are you a regular on the fitness floor? If you want to earn a reputation for courtesy rather than boorishness, adhere to our gym etiquette guide. By Shweta Taneja

You might have been rocking the gym for years now and know all there is to know about weights and postures, but are you “that” guy? You know the kind—the one who talks loudly on the phone, leaves behind pools of sweat on the bench when he’s done, ogles at the ladies, and is forever showing off his triceps. Everyone dreads his presence. If you are nodding your head, chances are you have met such a guy. “Most of the gyms have basic rules like allowing others to use the equipment after a period of time or wiping the seat of the equipment after use,” says Delhi-based Reebok fitness expert Nisha Varma, “but not many people follow those rules.” Here are some definite no-nos if you want to be known as a true gentleman.

Wipe that seat

Rules of conduct: Focus on the workout, not on networking.

“Who wants to exercise in a pool of somebody else’s sweat?” asks actor Rajvansh Rai, who gets upset every time he has to touch a handle or sit on a machine covered with someone else’s perspiration. “You need to be considerate towards other people who are using the same premises and equipment,” says fitness expert Vesna Jacob, of Vesna’s Wellness Clinic, New Delhi. “Imagine if the same happens to you!”

Manners matter: Always carry a towel with you and dry yourself and the bench as you move from one machine to another. “As a rule, after you are finished with a machine, wipe off everywhere you touched—the handles, the seat, the back,” says Jacob.

Switch off your phone

“I hate people who talk on the exercise floor,” says Sandeep Makkar, an IT professional, who works out four-five times a week. “They disturb everyone around them.” Most people who come to the gym are there to beat stress and not to hear you fire your employee or dish out a dozen instructions. So when you are on the treadmill, keep the telephone at bay.

Manners matter: Leave your cellphone in the gym locker, or better still, at home. Treat the time at the gym as your personal time, where you relax, bust stress and whip your body into shape. Your life won’t change if you stay away from your phone for an hour.

Don’t hog that machine

You might be really good at reserving your seat in the first-come-first-served concerts, but when it comes to the gym, keep your running-to-catch-the-window-seat instincts to yourself. “Hanging your jacket, towel, purse, sweat rag or keeping a bottle on a machine does not make you its owner,” says Sanjana Eipe, a marketing professional who works out at a gym five-six times a week. “The gym is public space and you do not own the equipment there, so be courteous and stick to one machine at a time.”

Manners matter: If you don’t plan to use the machine in the next 2 minutes, don’t monopolize it, especially during peak hours. Even if you are doing multiple sets on a machine, as common courtesy let others work out on the machine between your rest periods. If your health club has time limits for a cardio machine, respect the rules and let others use it.

Keep it quiet

“People treat gyms more as networking spaces nowadays than a place to build up your body,” says actor Aditya Singh Rajput, who works out four times a week. “I like to focus on my workouts, which becomes impossible if the person next to me taps me on my shoulder while I am doing my last set of push-ups to ask me where I got my Adidas pair from.”

Manners matter: When in the gym, follow a vow of silence. This means no grunting, no crackling at funny things, and definitely no chatting to the person who might be sitting on a machine and crunching. Keep your voice and music low. And network in a café instead.

Stop ogling

“Ogling is bad enough anywhere, but if a man stares at me while I am sweating it out, I feel completely creeped out,” says Aruni Singh, a management consultant who works out at a gym at least four times a week. Jacob, on the other hand, has learnt to take ogling with a pinch of humour. “Sometimes guys just try to be funny while you are in the gym, laughing that the gym is not a place for strong men any more,” she says. “Instead of getting angry at that, I simply invite them for an abs and flexibility competition. You should see their sweaty faces when I beat them to it.” Staring at a woman (or a man for that matter) while she’s working out her abs or shoulders is invasive and rude.

Manners matter: The girls are working as hard as you to tone up their bodies, so give them a break. In case you like a girl at your gym, a smile’s enough sign of your interest. That’s much more gentlemanly than gaping at her while she’s doing her crunches.

Don’t display your wares

You might think that your abs are custom-made to be displayed around the floor but for others, seeing your sweaty chest is not a very relaxing experience. “I hate it when men at my gym enter a sauna bath but do not take a towel with them,” says Delhi-based businessman Amit Arora, who goes to the gym around three times a week. The gym is a public space, not your personal bathroom. Strutting around in the buff in any part of the gym, including the bathrooms, is in bad taste.

Manners matter: There’s an added benefit to covering up. Since cold muscles tear much faster, a layer of cloth on your body will absorb sweat and keep your muscles warm, protecting them from tear. If you plan to do a lot of floor-based exercises and push-ups, make sure your neckline is not too revealing and your clothes are not too loose or too tight.

Don’t give unsolicited advice

You might have spent the last 20 years in a gym and have the crispest of abs around or a mountain instead of a tricep, but that doesn’t mean that someone next to you needs to hear how much you know about your weights or how the person next to you should use the treadmill or for how long.

Manners matter: Keep your gym knowledge to yourself. In case you see someone doing an exercise incorrectly, be very delicate when you approach them. Don’t preach or be derisive; be polite and ask if they need help.

Read the complete story here

Waking up to your online avatar

Do you blog, check your email or tweet as soon as you wake up? A tongue-in-cheek look at what your morning Net rooster says about you. By Shweta Taneja

 

Traditional Private Ryan

Your first window: Your personal email

Your medium of connection to the world is your personal inbox. Every morning, at home or after you reach office, the first thing you open in that browser is your personal email client. You generally don’t have any alternative windows open in your browser. All your social networking messages first come into your inbox. You check them as emails, commenting on other people’s Facebook status messages using the reply to comment link.

What it says: You are a person of habit. You took up email and have stuck to it for the last 10 years or more. It works for you and that’s the way you want to keep it.

Tweet tattler

Your first window: Twitter, Facebook or your favourite social network

Web-locked: What is your Net persona?

As soon as am strikes, your fingers start flying on the Qwerty keyboard or its touch-screen avatar, typing thoughts, emotions and experiences in concise word lengths. It’s not one-way communication—every few minutes you also need to check for updates, tweets, links, videos or ideas that your friends, family, cousins or complete strangers are posting online. On a dinner date, you type 140 characters on the sly while ordering the lamb dish. While seeing a movie, you are constantly thinking of what you will say about it on Facebook. You are on top of the latest social network trends, be it the review of Abhishek Bachchan’s latest flop or a blood donation camp in Alaska.

What it says: You are experimental and addicted to sharing your experiences. Social networks have given you the space to constantly reveal your thoughts and experiences through minimal interface. You are completely comfortable in your online skin, much more so than meeting face to face. You are also a constant retweeter.

Hard-working Joe

Your first window: Your office email client

For you the Internet is just another medium to stay connected to your work. You have the office email client set into your smartphone and check your email as soon as you wake up. You keep checking your office mails through the day, even when you’re out for a family dinner. You need to reply to every official mail you get, be it on weekends or late at night. In fact, the best way for your spouse to communicate with you is through an official email.

What it says: You are bordering on workaholism. Even when you’re on vacation, sitting on a beach, beer mug in hand, you itch to check your office mail (and usually do) to see if there’s an emergency where you are needed.

Anti-establishment ace

Your first window: Your own blog or other people’s blog

You get to hear things that might never come into mainstream media. You most probably have your own blog. You live in the non-conformist space on the Net. Every morning, you open a list of blogs of people around the world you have come to respect and hear what they have to say. You don’t tend to go to big news sites. Your news comes from individual blogs or tweets.

What it says: You have a voice, a strong one, and an equally strong following. You will not be seen hobnobbing with the big bad wolves. You like to stay away, a lion in his own space. You also tend to be Leftist and anti-corporate.

Multitask maverick

Your first window: Facebook, Twitter, email, weather, you open them all together.

You need to do it all. You open all the windows in your browser—your email client, social networking sites, blogs, news sites—together and then toggle between windows, commenting, answering and reading.

What it says: You are a multitasker and technology, especially the online medium, is a boon for you. You like to do everything together, fast and furious.

Read the complete story here.

Reinvent your virtual life

The World Wide Web is a fast-changing, fast-moving space. Forget plain old email, Twitter and Facebook; now your online life is also shaped by the kind of apps you use (or don’t use). If you’re not in touch with what’s the latest in the world of app stores and on the Net, you will soon be left behind. We bring updates on some of the current trends in the online world.

Tag yourself geographically

Why you should: Status messages about what’s on your mind and what’s new are so last year. The burning question for social networking this year is where all you have been and where you are right now. Check-in or location-based apps are the latest way to interact with your connections—friends, family, colleagues—by telling them about your favourite places and where you are now in the city or outside it. If you think it’s a brag through a bot, especially if you are the jet-setting type, you’re probably right. It’s a fun one though.

How it works: The technology at the heart of these apps is called geolocation, which uses your GPS-enabled smartphone to locate your physical being. From there on, depending on the app you use and your preferences, these apps find out the nearby restaurants or hang-outs your online friends have been to and recommended, or the interesting people you might want to meet. They remotely check you in at clubs, bars and restaurants in live time and automatically share every place you have been to on your social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. You can do virtual check-ins at bars, restaurants, cafés, parks, offices, and pretty much any place else. There are around 6,000 apps to choose from in the market today, with the popular ones being Foursquare, Gowalla, BrightKite and Facebook Places. Of course, you do need to remember to turn off the app in case you’re not where your boss or spouse think you are.

What you pay: Zilch. Most of these applications are free. In fact, frequent a place enough and you might even get some freebies from them as a thanks. Foursquare, for example, has a massive list of places all over the world that offer special discounts and free drinks to regulars or to anyone who has registered a certain number of check-ins at their site.

To read the complete story please click here.

Unshackle the idiot box

The latest gadget in your home to open up to apps is the oldest one. Your television set is all set to get more interactive and smarter with Internet connectivity and browsable apps. Shweta Taneja

Google TV, for instance, allows you to browse the Internet, search videos and, yes, download apps via the comfort of your remote control. A lot of brands, in fact, offer Internet integration with TV. Sony has introduced its Internet Bravia’s Internet Video application in its high-end NX and EX series, Samsung offers Internet@TV in the latest LED 7000 and 8000 series, while Panasonic offers Internet integration in its TV with Viera Cast technology. Since the technology is relatively new, be prepared for hiccups.

Read the complete story here.

Express Workouts

Bid your flabby body goodbye. Our celebrity fitness experts create 10- to 15-minute workouts with one aim in mind: a fab body for you in 2011. By Shweta Taneja

“All you need is 15-20 minutes of any hot and sweaty exercise to keep yourself fit,” says Delhi-based Reebok fitness trainer Nisha Varma. If it is tough for you to work out during the week, “make up on weekends with a 45-minute session of walking, jogging, swimming, cycling or dancing”.

Our fitness experts understand that many of you can’t take an hour out of your busy schedules every day, so they have created made-to-order workouts which will take less than 20 minutes a day to get you into a fab shape. “The idea is to be regular at the regime you pick up and do it every day,” says Mumbai-based yoga expert Tonia Clark, who believes a lot can be achieved if you make sure you exercise for at least 15 minutes early in the morning daily. “You can easily get a total body workout, body stretch as well as peace of mind,” she says. Here’s what you can do.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: Tone arms, shoulders and strengthen neck muscles

OUR EXPERT: Nisha Varma, a Reebok master trainer and fitness expert based in Delhi who has authored ‘Yoga for Back Problems’ and ‘Yoga at the Work Place’, says simple strength training two days a week can tone up arms and shoulders.

WHAT SHE SAYS

You won’t see a significant difference in your body but yes, the chicken wings will disappear. You will need a pair of dumb-bells of a weight that is a challenge for you (should be at least 1kg).

HER WORKOUT

•Bicep curls: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold one dumb-bell in either hand. Lift the dumb-bell towards your shoulders as you exhale. Lower it slowly to starting position as you exhale. Make sure you maintain the correct posture through the full range of movement. Alternate hands and do one set of 20 reps.

•Triceps extension: Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, belly in and shoulders pulled back and down. Hold the rod of one dumb-bell with both hands and lift it behind your shoulders in the middle of your upper back. Your elbows point towards the ceiling, arms are close to ears and the dumb-bell is resting between your shoulder blades. Exhale, lifting the dumb-bell towards the ceiling. Lower the arms slowly as you inhale. Do one set of 20 reps.

•Shoulder front raise: Hold a dumb-bell in each hand. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart. Lift both arms forward till shoulder level as you exhale and lower the arms as you inhale. Do not drop the arms suddenly. Do one set of 20 reps.

•Shoulder lateral raise: Hold a dumb-bell in each hand. Lift both arms to the side of your body till shoulder level. Inhale as you lift and exhale as you lower the weights.

•Finish the session with shoulder rotations forward and back eight times each.

A WORD OF CAUTION

Warm-up is a must before any exercise programme. You also need appropriate shoes and apparel. Before you begin, get a basic medical check-up.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: I want to strengthen my heart

OUR EXPERT: Vesna Jacob, a Pilates expert based in Delhi who runs Hypoxis, a wellness clinic.

WHAT SHE SAYS

There are many ways to improve your cardiac health. Walking, jogging, running or hopping are some of them. But if you haven’t done cardio for a while, you will need to start small. Skipping rope is the most fun as well as effective way to tone up the entire body. Build up your stamina by starting slow and sticking to the routine regularly. You can increase the number of sets (maximum, four) per session as you build your stamina.

HER WORKOUT

• Start with a couple of minutes of good warm-up and stretching. This will make sure that you don’t strain or pull your muscles.

•Stage 1: Keep an even tempo of skipping throughout the workout, and finish off at a faster pace. Do this for cycles of 5 minutes.

•Stage 2: A couple of weeks into this regimen, change this to interval training: Follow a 30-second fast and 60-second slower skipping rhythm in cycles of 5 minutes.

•Stage 3: The next stage is to do 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow, and then 60 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow, and so on for cycles of 5 minutes.

A WORD OF CAUTION

If you have to gasp for air or feel dizzy, or experience any chest pain, you need to stop immediately and have yourself checked by a doctor.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: Lose the beer belly

OUR EXPERT: Manish Tiwari, who teaches yoga to celebs such as Katrina Kaif and Sridevi, at his gym Cosmic Fusion, Bandra, Mumbai.

WHAT HE SAYS

A beer belly is a direct result of the excessive sugar in your diet. Ideally cut down on the consumption of beer. In case you still feel like having beer, remember to have darker beer as that’s richer in nutrients and antioxidants and has lesser sugar content.

HIS WORKOUT

•Shalabhasana: Lie flat on your stomach with your legs together, hands by the side of the body. Now raise your arms, chest, head and legs simultaneously, and hold for about 2-5 seconds. Then lower. This engages your abs fully.

•Setubandhasana: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet apart. Place your arms flat on your side, and lift your hips and back off the floor while leaving your head, shoulders and feet on the floor. Hold for about 5-10 seconds and do 10-15 reps. This burns your belly fat.

•Yoga crunches: Finally finish off with some yoga crunches. Lie down on your back, put your hands behind your head to support your back and using your abdominal muscles, push your legs up towards the ceiling, lifting your buttocks about 2-3 inches off the ground. Do 15-20 reps about three times a week.

A WORD OF CAUTION

Be careful when doing these poses if you don’t have any earlier yoga experience. You could injure yourself. Go slow on each one and keep breathing normally.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: A speedy total body workout

OUR EXPERT: Tonia Clark, a yoga expert from Canada who is based in Mumbai and has worked on a DVD with Lara Dutta called ‘Yoga Recovery and Rejuvenation’.

WHAT SHE SAYS

Start with a Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, which is a full body warm-up of 12 asanas. Do five to start with and follow with the workout listed below. This will cleanse your body, give you a nice stretch and soothe your mind.

HER WORKOUT

•Vrikshasana: Shift the weight to the left leg. Lift your right foot above the left knee, pushing the sole of the right foot into the left thigh. Bring your hands into prayer position. Shoulders relaxed, jaw soft and gaze fixed on one point, inhale and raise arms up to the sky. Hold the pose for at least five full cycles of breath.

•Pawanmuktasana: Lie on your back, legs straight out. Bend your right knee into your chest and hug your thigh, holding it with your arms. Pull the knee towards the right shoulder, keeping the left leg active. Feel a pinch in the right hip crease. This will open up the hips, cleanse your digestive system and eliminate toxins.

•Shavasana: Lie on your back with your legs straight and apart, your feet relaxed. Place your arms alongside your body, a little away, palms facing up. Roll your shoulder blades in towards each other. Close your eyes and just be still, breathing deeply and relaxing.

A WORD OF CAUTION

First train with a yoga teacher.

For the complete story, click here.

Two’s company

Ditch your multiple handsets for a sleek, popular dual-SIM cellphone, but be wary of dubious build quality. By Shweta Taneja & Krish Raghav

 

Three years ago, Mumbai-based entrepreneur Anun Charan decided to separate the phone numbers he needs for work from his personal contacts. Since he hated carrying more than one phone at a time, he bought a phone that could support two SIM cards.

“At that time, the only choice I had was to buy a cheap Chinese handset,” he says. Some months ago, when Nokia C2 was launched, Charan discarded his phone for the sturdy Nokia model. “Competitive network costs may be a factor while considering dual-SIM phones but the real plus is convenience. No two handsets, no two chargers and no two ringtones,” he says.

Delhi-based entrepreneur Rajesh Makkarhad is a frequent flyer who has to travel to Europe and the US for work. For him, swapping SIMs constantly and keeping at least one small rectangle safe and secure in his wallet at all times was a cumbersome exercise. “Nothing sucks more than constantly changing SIM cards in every continent,” he says. Samsung’s announcement of the launch of its Star Duos line of dual-SIM phones last month came to his rescue.

“Dual-SIM phones have been the latent need of Indian consumers, which MNC brands could not recognize,” says Gaurang Singh, senior editor, www.teleguru.in, a group of mobile experts who talk about the latest in the market.

The demand for dual-SIM phones is reflected in a study conducted by market intelligence and advisory firm IDC (International Data Corporation). India Quarterly Mobile Handsets Tracker, September 2010 says dual-SIM card slot phones have grown to touch as much as 38.5% of the total India mobile handset shipments, from less than 1% in the April-June 2009 quarter. Most of these phones, however, are offered at throwaway prices and are of dubious build quality.

“Dual-SIM phones also give customers an option to choose the best offer from service providers, which are coming in every month,” says Varun Krish, founder and editor of www.fonearena. com, a website that reviews cellphones. According to Singh, more phones are going to be launched in this category. “There’s a gap in the high end, smartphone category. There are just one or two phones up there, so there’s place for much more variety,” he says.

With new handsets being launched every month, and nearly 30 new mobile brands jostling for attention, here is a quick guide for those considering a dual-SIM phone.


Wynncom Y23

A small, stylish phone, the Y23 is made for someone who doesn’t have easy PC access. It comes with two SD card slots that support expandable memory up to 8 GB (4 GB + 4 GB). This makes it easier for the user to transfer data from one memory card to the other, without the need for another device. Other than this, it has the usual specs—FM, music, video player and camera, as well as practical features such as a torchlight and USB port.

Price: Rs. 1,600*

What we like: A great entry-level phone for this category.

 

Nokia C2

This is a long-awaited dual-SIM from Nokia with dual standby and a hot-swappable secondary SIM slot. This means the second SIM can be removed and inserted while the handset is still running. It’s ideal for any Nokia loyalist looking for a functional phone high on usability.The phone comes loaded with Ovi Mail, a free email tool that can be synced to multiple email addresses, and Ovi Life, another tool that provides information on healthcare, agriculture, education and entertainment. The memory capacity can be expanded up to 32 GB using Micro SD cards.

Price:Rs. 2,500*

What we like: It’s the usual Nokia—sturdy, reliable, durable, and with good after-sales service.

 

Aroma D110

Aroma is among the many new mobile brands offering basic value-for-money phones. At a throwaway price, the phone offers you a 2.4-inch 262K colour QVGA sharp display, a 1.3- megapixel camera, preloaded games, a multi-format music player and FM radio with recording. Add to that a video player, voice recorder and Facebook and MSN messenger applications and you have a nice, cheap substitute for a fully loaded feature phone. An expandable memory capacity of 2 GB takes care of all the additional things you would like to keep on the phone.

Price: Rs. 2,699*

What we like: Value for money and stylish to look at.

 

Fly MV135

It’s a basic handset that is strong on the entertainment factor, with a 2-megapixel camera, FM recording and an eBook reader. It offers Nimbuzz, Opera Mini and Snaptu for social addicts, as well as a few Java games. It includes a few nifty features such as call recording and call blacklisting, useful for those who might receive a lot of unsolicited calls (i.e, everyone). You can connect it through USB and Bluetooth with other devices.

Price: Rs. 3,949*

What we like: Good music options, including scheduled recording from radio as well as an equalizer.

 

Micromax X550 Qube

A stylish 3D interface in its 3.2-inch, touch-screen display makes it quite unique, though it tends to lag quite a bit. Other than that it has the usual 2-megapixel camera, stereo FM radio, a multi-format music player and video player. It is preloaded with Opera Mini mobile browser and social networking applications such as Facebook, Nimbuzz and Snaptu.

Price: Rs. 4,800*

What we like: Fun interface with 8 hours of talktime and six days of standby time for people who forget to charge their phones.

 

MVL G81

With a local push-mail service offer, it’s one of the basic business phones available in this category. This lightweight phone comes with a 2.4-inch colour display, a Qwerty keypad, a 3.2-megapixel camera, Quadband and FM radio with recording. The device offers Java, Bluetooth, with A2DP and EDGE connectivity. Its speed connectivity and Opera Mini, Nimbuzz and Snaptu apps make it a good choice for online addicts. You can store 2,000 phonebook contacts and 1,000 SMS entries. Featuring a mobile tracker, the device works well as a modem and allows PC sync support as well. Considered a common man’s smartphone.

Price: Rs. 4,500*

What we like: Its generous, Internet-supported attributes and push-mail service offer.

 

Motorola EX128

Launched earlier this month, EX128 is a value-for-money touch-screen model with a 3.2-inch large WQVGA display and a screen resolution of 240×400 pixels. Entertainment-wise, the phone offers a 3-megapixel camera, a video player and quick access to Gmail/Facebook/MySpace/YouTube. It’s good for music freaks as a huge library can be created in 32 GB expandable memory, the 3.5 mm jack gives you universal connectivity and long battery life ensures long hours of listening without interruption.

Price: Rs. 5,749*

What we like: A good balance between connectivity, entertainment and usability.

 

Karbonn K1212

This basic 3.2-inch touch screen is a nice overall package. The audio player features a CD-player-like interface, and plays all the standard formats. It even allows you to become DJ by pushing, pulling and rotating on on-screen disk. Entertaining, if purely decorative. You can also shake the phone to change songs and wallpapers and listen to stereo music wirelessly via a Bluetooth headset. Other than that, it comes with a 3-megapixel camera and quick access to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, eMSN and eBuddy. There is also a built-in data/fax modem.

Price: Rs. 5,100*

What we like: It’s sleek, value for money and fun to use, especially for music.

 

Samsung Star Duo B7722

There’s no smartphone in the dual-SIM market, but the Samsung B7722 comes close. The phone offers a 3.2-inch, touch-screen display with support for 262K colours. It gives up to 12 hours of talktime and uses both the SIMs for a unique 3G + 2G (HSDPA + EDGE) dual standby to expand communication networks. EDGE allows for faster downloads and file transfers while the HSDPA network connection is used to conveniently update status, upload photos and send messages through social networking sites. The handset comes loaded with a 5-megapixel camera with Power LED flash, video-recording capabilities, social networking widgets, a FindMusic service to identify songs, Document viewer, Stereo FM radio and recording. It has 250 MB internal memory, expandable to 16 GB with an SD card.

Price: Rs. 12,300*

What we like: Best battery time of 12 hours talktime, with a smooth touch screen and faster Internet browsing. Plus, it supports nine Indian languages.

* Prices listed are approximate.

For complete story, click here.

The slow killer called sitting

Studies suggest that even if you exercise for 30 minutes daily, you are prone to heart disease and spinal problems if you spend a large part of your day sitting. By Shweta Taneja

Rakesh Mehta, a 32-year-old business manager with a consultancy, spends most of his workday attending meetings, taking calls and writing instructions through emails, all sitting in his office. Once at home, he watches TV before going to bed. In a day, he spends around 8 hours sleeping, 2 hours standing or walking from one place to another, about half-an-hour exercising and the remaining 13-odd hours sitting.

Don’t be surprised if your own calculations throw up similar results. Like Mehta, most of us belong to a generation of sitters, thanks to technology’s little conveniences. “Most of us spend almost 95% of our waking hours sitting,” says Marc Hamilton, professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, US, in an email interview. He labels today’s generation as “active couch potatoes”, and those who manage the required 30 minutes of exercise everyday as “exercising couch potatoes”. His papers, published in journals such as Diabetes (2007) and Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports (2008), show how excessive sitting time is harmful to cardiovascular and metabolic effects. This can lead to lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, and some cancers, irrespective of the time you spend exercising.

Hamilton’s research, which is supported by a growing body of research into a concept called inactivity physiology, is trying to establish a link between disease and sedentary behaviour or prolonged sitting. “It’s a new way of thinking about physical inactivity or our sedentary lifestyle,” says Hamilton.

According to a study of 8,800 adults published in January in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, for every 60 minutes you sit watching TV daily, you may increase your risk of early death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Inactivity just doesn’t suit humans, according to Hamilton. “The enzyme LPL (lipoprotein lipase), which usually acts like a vacuum cleaner and sucks up the bad fat in your blood and converts it into muscle, shuts down when you are sitting or lounging,” he explains. It’s like our body’s good workers go idle when we are sitting, so more fat stays in the blood and starts getting deposited in the belly fat and other organs. “When you are inactive for a prolonged period, your muscles become placid and lose their tautness. You also tend to gain weight, especially in the midriff area,” says Sanjay Mehrotra, senior consultant cardiologist, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, Bangalore. The fat which gets collected in the central part of your body, starts behaving like an endocrine gland, he says. It secretes hormones which lead to an increase in artery-damaging fat in the blood, causing obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

Back problems

Other than the heart, your back, spine, shoulders and hips develop problems due to prolonged sitting. “Your spine is made to stand. When you sit for longer hours, to be in a perfect posture with a straight back, you need very strong back muscles,” says Shiv Kanwat, consultant, physiotherapy, Moolchand Orthopaedics Hospital, New Delhi, who gets many patients who are in their early 20s and mid-30s with neck, lower back or shoulder complaints. And since most people do not have very strong back muscles, they tend to slouch after long hours of sitting, leading to the lower back slouching forward and shoulders drooping. Over time, this leads to pain in the shoulders, neck and lower back.

Computer table too low?

The problem is multiplied because ergonomics is not something most Indian firms include in their priority list. Bhavna Popat, 28, developed lower back pain after just a couple of years of working in a call centre. “The chair at my office was the problem; it was just too straight,” she says. Though her chair was changed later, it was too late to save her back. “The ergonomics in most companies are pathetic,” says Bipin Walia, senior consultant, neurosurgery and head neuro spine surgery, Max Hospital, New Delhi. “If you are sitting at a desk for 8 hours, a bad chair and badly placed computer can do a lot of damage to your spine.” Such repetitive stress injuries (RSI) affect muscles, tendons and nerves of the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands.

Deepak Sharan, medical director, RECOUP Neuromusculoskeletal Rehabilitation Centre, Bangalore, says, “Early symptoms of RSI, which most of us tend to ignore, are discomfort, stiffness, clumsiness, tingling, headaches and a constant need to stretch or massage one’s arms.”

A research study published in October in the International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology on ergonomics-related health problems in people in Indian IT and IT services companies, found that 42% of the 650respondents felt “pain or aching in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, or the back followed by discomfort”. Almost 50% of them felt that the reason for this was “sitting in the same posture for continuous long hours”. Not surprisingly, almost 72.5% of the respondents felt that their company had not taken notice of their problems and nothing was being done to improve the ergonomics at work. Bad ergonomic conditions lead not only to health problems but also loss of employee productivity. Dr Sharan, who runs programmes on ergonomics in companies such as Oracle, Hewlett Packard and Wipro, says he has received positive feedback from the employees after the programme. “Rather than investing in expensive gyms, employers should invest in well-designed chairs and workstations to improve productivity,” he says.

Mumbai-based fitness expert Leena Mogre has started a special fitness course aimed at what she calls “professional sitters”, or people who live life at a right angle position. “Your spine is always bending forward, which leads to your core, abs and lower back becoming very weak,” she says. Her exercises help strengthen these areas, she says.

Get up and gossip

The good news is that if you lead even a normally active life, you can undo all these sitting-related injuries. According to a study published in Diabetes Care in 2007 in Australia, constant light-intensity activity is good for your body. So even a little activity such as taking a coffee break (without having coffee) or taking a short walk during lunch break can protect your heart. “The idea is to slow the process down and the way is to remain active physically,” says Dr Mehrotra. “Walking increases your metabolic rate, burns some calories and keeps your heart pumping.”

Taking a break has an additional benefit of giving your back a break, says Dr Kanwat. “Your joints need to constantly move.” Walk for 1-2 minutes every 20 minutes of sitting, catch up on some gossip by the coffee machine and you should be all right.

To read the complete story, click here.

Why non-gamers should rejoice

Get off the couch, jump, shout and wave your hands about. Playing games is fun and easy says Shweta Taneja

Preview | Kinect for XBOX 360

Every time I try to play a video game, I give up in 5 minutes flat. I thought most video games required gruelling Six Sigma skills, a deeper understanding about matters such as which blue button to press from 21 and lightning-fast reflexes. Long story short, I’m not a gamer—but Microsoft’s futuristic new Kinect or the Xbox 360 briefly made me one.

I attended a trial preview of the Kinect, a hands-free technology for Microsoft’s gaming console, the Xbox 360. I was asked to stand before a small, shiny, sleek, black device placed under a 40-inch LCD television. An invisible sensor scanned me and then the Kinect evangelist smiled and asked me to play.

My mind flashed familiar warning signals.

For those who don’t know it yet, Kinect is an exploration of what a hands-free technology can do to gaming. For one, it has no buttons. All it has at the front are three eyes. These are the three cameras: an X-ray sensor which scans you skeletally, an RGB (red, green and blue) camera, and a depth sensor to track your movement. Then there’s a microphone that allows you to control the Xbox 360 with your voice (2001: A Space Odyssey style). Between them, the idea is to make your gaming avatar on the screen copy your body movements exactly on to the game. The cameras also enable easy logging into your account through your face (yes, it recognizes you) or your voice.

The game I played was River Rush, part of a package of games called Kinect Adventures. It’s a simple game requiring jumping over rocks and bushes as you are going downstream on a raft. The great part was that I didn’t need to learn whether the yellow or red button will make me jump. I simply jumped or crouched in unison with the stranger next to me, who like me had been invited to try out the Kinect. For a no-gamer like me, adapting to its motion and tracking was quite easy. In 10 minutes of game play, I had done four things—made friends with a complete stranger, had a blast playing a new game, got myself some cardio, and a cheer from the audience. As a bonus point, I got to see myself in action on the screen as the Kinect had been clicking pictures of me playing, jumping, diving and crouching all the while.

Like Nintendo’s Wii before it, Kinect is aimed at “casual gamers”—people who have sedentary, busy jobs and want to connect with their children or find a fun way to get fit. It’s meant for friends who want to hang out, jump, dance and do it all with a glass of beer in one hand (not to be used while playing) and then post their goofy pictures on their social networks.

This is the reason why most of the games it offers are like going on a joyride or visiting an amusement park. Kinectimals is a cutesy game which lets you choose a pet animal and well, pet it so that it coos to you. Though it’s obviously targeted at kids, its graphics and sounds bring a smile on even the most hardened of cynics (do check out the tiger cub, if you don’t believe me). Dance Central teaches you dance moves of different dancing styles. It’s especially made for people who have three left feet. The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout is a fitness game for people who want to exercise using the guidance of a game. Imagine an onscreen tutor who guides and corrects you when you do a wrong yoga pose.

The box is capable of tracking up to six people (height, weight can vary) and be active for two. In fact, when I tried it, it was more fun to play it with someone—even a stranger—and a group to cheer you on.

One of the major drawbacks is the space it needs for you to play—anything between 6-8ft from your device and empty space around it is essential. If you have couches, tables, books or other people in this space, the device tends to become confused. Another issue is a half a second lag in the response of your onscreen avatar. The lag becomes more, the faster you move. The reason is that your movements trigger pre-animated actions for your avatar.

In spite of these teething problems, this controller-free gaming experience makes gaming easy, fun and adaptable.

The product is expected to be in India in December and will be priced approximately at Rs9,990 for the Kinect, and Rs22,990 for a new 4 GB Xbox 360 with Kinect.

Check out the complete story here

The (Anti) Salt March

Excessive salt intake can cause cardiovascular diseases and is especially harmful for those who have a sedentary lifestyle. It’s time to go easy on that pinch

Shweta Taneja

Kanwal Batra, 50, a Delhi-based businessman, was in a dilemma when his naturopathy doctor told him to avoid salt till the eczema eruptions on his body were controlled. “I didn’t know how to react. Salt is a basic taste, how can one leave it?” was his initial reaction. The first few weeks of a salt-less diet were tough. “I couldn’t swallow the food. It had no taste!”

Later, he was surprised by the taste of vegetables such as gourd and spinach. “All of them had natural levels of salt in them. In palak (spinach), for example, the salt content is high and soon enough it tasted fine when cooked without salt,” he says. In fact, he now feels that adding salt actually kills the intrinsic flavour in vegetables.

One level teaspoon of salt or 5g provides about 2,300mg of sodium. Most Indians consume more than this amount. “Usually Indians have around 8.5g of salt per day, which is much higher than the 5g recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO),” says K. Damayanti, a scientist at the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad. Sodium and chloride, both available in salt, help to keep the level of fluids in the body balanced. Chloride is not too harmful to the body, but an overdose of sodium has been directly linked to an increase in blood pressure (hypertension) and cardiovascular diseases.

According to Dr Damayanti, “sedentary workers”, or people with desk jobs, need no more than 5g of salt per day. “This amount of salt gives 2,000mg of sodium to the body, which is more than enough for healthy Indian adults working in offices,” she says. The number changes, according to her, if you are sweating too much—either due to the environment or physical exercise. “For people working in rural areas in heat conditions or for athletes, 7-8g of salt every day is more than enough.”

According to a study conducted by WHO, higher salt intake (about 7-10g) leads to a 23% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“When we eat more salt than the body needs, it gets accumulated in every cell in our body. This is similar to toxic waste,” explains Ramesh Hotchandani, consultant in nephrology at Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi. “The effect of this on your cells is similar to what happens when salt is sprinkled on to vegetables or fruits. They wilt because the salt draws out their water. The same thing happens inside your body to your organs and cells,” adds Vijaya Venkat, founder and director of the Health Awareness Centre in Mumbai, which has been doing research on nutrition for the last 20 years and helps people adopt healthier lifestyles.

Usually our body is efficient and can get rid of this toxic waste. Drinking a lot of water helps rid the body of excess salt accumulation. “The salts accumulated in the body come out in the form of urine and sweat,” says Dr Hotchandani. In the long term, a habit of excessive salt intake causes blood pressure to rise, leading to hypertension and eventually, to heart-related problems. “Your body retains water within its system to neutralize the salt’s acidic effect,” explains Venkat. “An ounce of salt can hold three quarts of water within the system. This increases the pressure in your arteries, leading to an increase in blood pressure.”

BLOCK HIDDEN SOURCES

Stop excess salt from entering your body on the sly

Kick the salt shaker

Table salt contains the highest levels of sodium. Once it’s off the table, you will resist the tendency to sprinkle salt on cooked food as well as fresh ones such as curd, salads and fruits.

Limit use while cooking

“Don’t use more than 2-3g of salt in your daily cooking,” says Taru Agarwal, researcher, Nutri-Health Systems, in Delhi. “Start by reducing salt in cooking and in recipes to half the amount,” says nutritionist Ishi Khosla, Whole Foods, Delhi. To keep a measure, create a 3g pouch for your daily needs. “Use salt only from this pouch, whether in cooked or uncooked food,” says Ramesh Hotchandani, consultant in nephrology at Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi, who uses this technique to help hypertensive patients limit their intake of salt content. Sprinkle salt on food after it is cooked. You will find you are using less salt if you cook this way.

Avoid processed foods and condiments

Today, almost all processed foods contain salt; the question is how much. “Considering that we consume salt in everything from baby food to invisible additives found in all processed food, our ‘disguised’ consumption of salt is really very high,” says Vijaya Venkat, founder and director of the Health Awareness Centre in Mumbai. Processed foods such as bread, chips, ‘khakra’, ‘papad’, breakfast cereals, salty snacks, ready-to-eat meals, canned soups, biscuits, salted butter, cheese—all have high salt and sodium content. A tablespoon of regular ketchup, for example, has a whopping 160-190mg of sodium.

Avoid processed foods wherever you can and replace them with easy-to-make recipes using raw food materials. Make your own sauces using your favourite salt substitute or herb/spice blend. “Use low salt soy sauce diluted with lemon juice,” suggests Khosla. Balsamic vinegar or olive oil are also good replacements. Anything that has been pickled, packed in brine or canned contains a high amount of sodium. Avoid it.

Use spices instead of salt

Salt is a kind of flavour that our taste buds have got used to. Condition yourself to enjoy other flavours such as spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends of herbs such as oregano, basil, dill, rosemary or thyme. Garlic is another strong flavour that can replace the need for salt with practice. Fresh lime, mango, tamarind, ‘kokum’, celery and seaweed can be used as substitute condiments instead of salt, suggests Venkat.

Also see properties of various types of salt, here

Fortify your online avatar

At a time when you’re under constant threat from viruses, malware and phishing, these simple precautions can help you browse the Net securely

Shweta Taneja

On receiving an email about a lucrative moneymaking scheme, Sri Kumara registered as a member for free on the website www.legend-mails.com. The idea was simple—get paid to receive emails. To maximize his profits, within a month he upgraded himself to a diamond membership on the site by paying $269 (Rs. 12,110). After the payment, he got no response to his emails. He also never received any of the money promised by the site.

Stay alert: Use different passwords for various online activities. Raajan/Mint

If you think you will never fall for a cyber trap like Kumara, think again. Seventy-six per cent of digital Indians have experienced some form of cyber crime, according to a Norton Cybercrime Report published last month. The world average is 65%.

Though viruses and malware top the list in online crime, such phishing emails are fast catching up. If you haven’t faced a virus threat, a password attack or a genuine-looking phishing email, count yourself lucky. But there is no harm in being prepared. Here are simple tips to browse securely.

Give out information only on secure sites

Any site which asks for your personal information (login ID, password, bank account details, credit card information), be it bank sites, shopping sites or email accounts, should have secure network indicators. First, check if the site has https written before its address. “Most websites are http only. An https site means it’s secure and encrypted,” says Ankit Fadia, an ethical hacker who works with the Union government on cyber crime, is the host of MTV What the Hack and has written 14 books on computer security.

An alternative symbol for a secure site is a small yellow padlock on the bottom left of your browser. Another one is when your URL bar goes green. “These symbols mean that other people in the same network cannot tie up into your communication or conversation. One of these pointers needs to be there before you enter any personal details online,” says Fadia.

“The most common mistake people make online is yielding to greed,” says G. Sivakumar, professor, department of computer science and engineering, IIT Bombay. “Expecting to win prizes, lotteries or receive handsome amounts of money, many users give away valuable personal information and also infect their computers with malware.” There are no free lunches, he stresses. If an email, especially by a stranger, makes an offer which is too good to be true, one should simply delete it.

Stay vigilant on your browser

Tab napping, a phishing scam, targets users who open lots of tabs on their browser at the same time. It replaces an inactive browser tab with a fake page set up specifically to obtain your personal data, such as a bank site. “You won’t even realize that it’s happening,” says Fadia. So if the bank site is open on a particular tab while you are working on another one, when you return to it, double-check before you enter the data. Malicious code can replace the Web page you opened with a fake version that looks virtually identical to the legitimate one. “Always retype a website address and then add your bank account or password to it,” he adds.

Also, almost all browsers support a private browsing mode. Make use of it. “This prevents storage of cookies and other personal information on the computer and makes it less vulnerable,” says Sivakumar.

Always cross-check bank emails with the bank

Especially if it’s asking for your account information or your I-pin. “A bank will never send out an email to ask for your account information,” says Vakul Sharma, a Supreme Court

advocate who has been dealing with cases of cyber crime. If you have any doubts, call up the bank and countercheck to see if they have sent out any emails. As a rule, be as stringent online as you would be in the real world. Would you provide your ATM pin to a person who comes knocking on your door and claims to be from the bank? Treat emails from the bank the same way. “Never input any sensitive information that might help provide access to your bank accounts, even if the link shows a page which appears legitimate,” warns Sharma.

Be alert when shopping online

Online shopping is one place where having multiple identities is recommended. “Use different IDs/email

addresses and passwords for various online activities,” suggests Sivakumar. Have a credit card meant only for online transactions. It should have a small credit limit so that in case someone else uses it, your losses are not too high.

Stick to a reputed website for shopping and use the virtual keyboard to enter details wherever you have the option. “Criminals use key loggers to record your passwords so a virtual keyboard is another level of protection,” says Fadia.

Opt for a secure password

“The most common reason for identity theft online is an easy-to-crack password,” says Sivakumar. According to him, a good password is a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and one or more symbols such as !, @, # and ,.

Read the complete story here.