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26 Healthy Habits That Really Aren't So Healthy

"Take your vitamins, sit up straight, and go for a run." While these habits may seem like no-brainers, it's time to reevaluate what’s actually best for our health.
26 Healthy Habits That Really Aren't So Healthy
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26 Healthy Habits That Really Aren't So Healthy

From magazine headlines to wise words from our mother, we’re constantly bombarded with “tips” to keep our health in check. But before drowning in diet soda and daily showers, reassess some of these behaviors that may be doing more harm than help.

Foods and Eating Habits:

1. Enhanced water. A little faux fruity flavor might seem like a great way to up H2O intake, but flavored water, like Vitamin Water or even Smart Water, can be filled with sugar. Skip the artificially sweetened water and infuse water with actual fruit.

2. Granola and granola bars. Granola is made from whole grains, so it can’t be bad, right? Not so fast. Granola and granola bars are both calorically dense and often contain a ton of sugar. You may as well eat a candy bar

3. Protein bars. Protein bars don’t fall far from the granola-bar-tree. They are often ultra-high in calories and sugar—not exactly what the body needs after a hard workout. Choose a healthier high-protein snack instead.

4. Vitamins and supplements. Multiple studies have shown that taking vitamins (in pill form) may not have any positive effect on long-term health. Researchers have surveyed the nonexistent (or even potentially harmful) ties of vitamin E and C supplements with heart disease, cancer, and cancer treatment [1] [2] [3]. Plus, most people get all the vitamins they need from their food, and substituting pills for whole foods may mean missing out on the benefits from other compounds found in the natural sources.

5. Light beer. News flash: Light-beer doesn't necessarily mean less calories. Instead, many simply have a lower alcohol content. And for those interested in getting a buzz on, the calorie difference may be negated by the need to drink more. Sip a healthier beer instead, and split up the six-pack between friends.

6. “Low-fat” foods. Think twice before skipping the fat-filled salmon. While cutting some fat could help weight loss, we may miss out on some big benefits from healthy omega-3 fats, such as boosting brainpower and lowering the risk of heart disease [4] [5] [6].

7. Skipping meals. Skipping meals probably won’t save us any calories in the long haul. Forgoing a meal may result in overeating later on, so choose a healthier lunchtime treat instead [7] [8] [9].

8. Bottled water. Some bottled water may be filled with bacteria or chemicals when bottled in plastic containers [10] [11] So grab a water filter and purify tap water instead.

9. Passing on dessert. Don't deny your favorite dessert. If really craving that double chocolate brownie, enjoy a few generous bites instead of going for seconds at the dinner buffet line—which could rack up even more calories.

10. Diet soda. Diet Dr. Pepper may not be our friend. Scientists suggest too much of these zero-cal beverages could do as much damage as the sugary stuff, potentially leading to weight gain and an uncontrollable sweet tooth [12] [13] The solution? Skip the soda completely and opt for a healthier choice.

11. Juice diets. Many of us could use a few more fruits and veggies, but we don’t need to have spinach-apple juice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Juice diets may leave out important nutrients and enough calories to stay strong throughout the day.

12. Microwave diet meals. Try making your own meals, without the box and frozen plastic tray. Many frozen meals are packed with sodium, while lacking veggies and enough calories. Short on time? Make a large batch of your favorite meal over the weekend and freeze individual portions to eat throughout the week.

Hygiene and Health

13. Hot tubs. They may be super relaxing, but hot tubs are a one-stop shop for bacteria and germs, and may even cause a rash. Gross.

14. Antibacterial soap. It may not be worth scrubbing down with the fancy stuff: Regular soap and water is just as beneficial when it comes to staying squeaky clean [14].

15. Brushing right after every meal. Just ‘cause dessert was devoured doesn’t mean we should grab the toothbrush and paste. Wait at least 30 minutes after a meal so saliva can neutralize the acid in the mouth and strengthen the enamel on those chompers.

16. Avoiding the sun. While too much sun could cause a nasty burn (or worse!) sidestepping the sun at all costs may lead to a lack of Vitamin D which is essential for proper muscle and bone development [15].

17. Daily showers. Stop the scrubbing! Hopping in the shower too often may irritate and dry out skin. If you really need to freshen up, spray on some perfume or cologne and save the shower ‘till tomorrow.

18. Catching up on sleep. We’re sorry to break it to you, but it’s pretty tricky to catch up on sleep. So rather than skimping on sleep in order to cash them in later, aim for a solid seven to nine hours a night.

19. Sitting up straight. Yeah, we’re surprised too. Sitting up straight may be bad for the back, so skip the seat and try a standing desk at the office [16] [17].

20. Cleaning with disinfecting products. There’s some evidence that certain chemicals in disinfecting products could lead to asthma [18] [19]. Simply use a regular cleaning product  or detergent without the chemicals instead.

Working Out

21. Only doing cardio. Hitting the roads is great and all, but don’t retire the weights for the running shoes. Make sure to strength train to burn fat, lean out, and look badass in the process.

22. Doing a million crunches. The secret to six-pack abs probably isn’t crunch after crunch. To flatten out and tone up the core, try running some intervals, lifting a few weights, and cleaning up that diet instead.

23. Breathing deeply through the chest. Whether running the final lap or heading down the basketball court, avoid deep breathing with the chest. For a most effective breath to help any athlete’s performance, remember to use the diaphragm!

24. Static stretching pre workout. When warming up, static stretching (aka holding positions for a certain length of time) won’t do much in way of preventing soreness [20]. Skip the still motions and do dynamic stretches, like lunges and high knees, instead [21].

25. Lifting machines. Most lifting machines focus on single joint exercises, which fail to improve muscle imbalance and does not burn as many calories as hitting the squat rack or swinging a kettlebell.

26. Hitting the gym daily. Don’t get us wrong, exercise is important! But spending too much time at the gym leaves little time for muscles—and the mind—to recover. Make sure to get at least one or two days of rest, and dominate those dumbbells the rest of the week.

Additional research by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Works Cited +

  1. Vitamin C antagonizes the cytotoxic effects of antineoplastic drugs. Heaney, M.L., Gardner, J.R., Karasavvas, N., et al. Departments of Medicine and Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY. Cancer Research, 2008 Oct 1;68(19):8031-8.
  2. SELECT: the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial: rationale and design. Klein, E.A., Thompson, I.M., Lippman, S.M., et al. Section of Urologic Oncology, Department of Urology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, 2000 Nov;3(3):145-151.
  3. Vitamins E and C in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in men: the Physicians' Health Study II randomized controlled trial. Sesso, H.D., Buring, J.E., Christen, W.G.  Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 900 Commonwealth Ave E, Boston, MA. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008 Nov 12;300(18):2123-33. Epub 2008 Nov 9.
  4. Effects of a behavioral weight loss program stressing calorie restriction versus calorie plus fat restriction in obese individuals with NIDDM or a family history of diabetes. Pascale, R.W., Wing. R.R., Butler, B.A., et al. Diabetes Care, 1995 Sep;18(9):1241-8.
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Swanson, D., Block, R., Mousa, S.A. Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Rensselaer, NY. Advances In Nutrition, 2012 Jan;3(1):1-7. Epub 2012 Jan 5.
  6. Fatty fish, marine omega-3 fatty acids and incidence of heart failure. Levitan, E.B., Wolk, A., Mittleman, M.A. Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Public Health, Birmingham, AL. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 Jun;64(6):587-94. Epub 2010 Mar 24.
  7. Obesity-related eating behaviors are associated with low physical activity and poor diet quality in Spain. Mesas, A.E., Guallar-Castillon, P., Leon-Munoz, L.M.,et al. Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid/IdiPAZ-CIBER in Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Madrid, Spain. The Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Jul;142(7):1321-8. Epub 2012 May 23.
  8. Breakfast skipping and health-compromising behaviors in adolescents and adults. Keski-Rahkonen, A., Kaprio, J., Rissanen, A., et al. Department of Public Health, PO Box 41, University of Helsinki, Helsinki 00014, Finland. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003 Jul;57(7):842-53.
  9. Dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviors during adolescence: associations with 10-year changes in body mass index. Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Story, M., et al. Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2012 Jan;50(1):80-6. Epub 2011 Jun 25.
  10. Removal of selected pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during sand filtration and ozonation at a municipal sewage treatment plant. Nakada, N., Shinohara, H., Murata, A., et al. Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry, Institute of Symbiotic Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan. Water Research, 2007 Nov;41(19):4373-82. Epub 2007 Jun 21.
  11. Endocrine disruptors in bottled mineral water: total estrogenic burden and migration from plastic bottles. Wagner, M., Oehlmann, J. Department of Aquatic Ecotoxicology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Siesmayerstr. 70 A, 60054, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Environmental Science and Pollution Research International, 2009 May;16(3):278-86.
  12. Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Green, E., Murphy, C.San Diego State University/University of California San Diego, Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, San Diego, CA. Physiology and Behavior, 2012 May 11. [Epub ahead of print]
  13. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Yang, Q. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, June; 83(2): 101–108.
  14. National and regional assessment of the antibacterial soap market: a step toward determining the impact of prevalent antibacterial soaps. Perencevich, E.N., Wong, M.T., Harris, A.D. Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA. American Journal of Infection and Control, 2001 Oct;29(5):281-3.
  15. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Holick, M.F., Chen, T.C. Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. 2008 Apr;87(4):1080S-6S.
  16. What do physiotherapists consider to be the best sitting spinal posture? O’Sullivan, K., O’Sullivan, P., O’Sullivan, L. University of Limerick, HS2-025, Health Sciences Building, Limerick, Ireland. Manual Therapy, Man Ther. 2012 May 16. [Epub ahead of print]
  17. Association between sitting and occupational LBP. Lis, A.M., Black, K.M., Korn, H., et al. Occupational and Industrial Orthopaedic Center, New York, NY. European Spine Journal, 2007 Feb;16(2):283-98. Epub 2006 May 31.
  18. Quaternary ammonium compounds and occupational asthma. Purohit, A., Kopferschmitt-Kubler, M.C., Moreau, C., et al. Service de Pneumologie, Hôpital Lyautey, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, France. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 2000 Aug;73(6):423-7.
  19. Disinfectant use as a risk factor for atopic sensitization and symptoms consistent with asthma: an epidemiological study. Preller, L., Doekes, G., Heederik, D., et al. Dept. of Epidemiology and Public Health, Wageningen Agricultural University, The Netherlands. The European Respiratory Journal, 1996 Jul;9(7):1407-13.
  20. Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. Herbert, R.D., Gabriel, M. School of Physiotherapy, University of Sydney, Lidcombe, New South Wales 1825, Australia. British Medical Journal, 2002 Aug 31;325(7362):468.
  21. The effects of two stretching protocols on the reactive strength index in female soccer and rugby players. Werstein, K.M., Lund, R.J. Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2012 Jun;26(6):1564-7.

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