From wearing the wrong shoes to binge-watching Dexter, these bad habits could quietly be holding you back.
Chelsea Tuthill 1 / 26
1. Oversleeping or hitting the snooze button
When it comes to sleep, the sweet spot is seven to nine hours. Sleeping for fewer than than six hours or more than 10 hours each night has been linked to chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, according to a study from the CDC. Another stress to your body is hitting the snooze button. Disrupting your sleep diminishes the benefits of rest, leaving you more tired than if you had gotten up the first time the alarm went off, explains Dr. Yizhak Kupfer, Assistant Director of Critical Care and Pulmonary Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY.
The CDC has reported that men who drink 3-4 alcoholic drinks each day are at a higher risk of developing cancer of the mouth, neck, and throat. They are also twice as likely to develop liver cirrhosis and high blood pressure. Allow yourself at least two alcohol-free days each week. Binge drinking doesn’t only have serious health risks—it can also contribute to weight gain and prevent you from reaching your fitness goals.
A full evening of Game of Thrones may seem like the optimal way to unwind after work but watch more than three episodes after sitting at your desk for eight hours and you'll put your health in danger. According to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, adults who sat for more than 11 hours a day had a 40% increased risk of dying within three years compared with those who sat for fewer than four hours a day.
Not getting enough sunlight can deplete your body's vitamin D supply, which happens quickly during cold winter months. Some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include tiredness, aches and pains, and depression. Taking a vitamin D supplement can help you get the recommended amount, about 600 IU for 19- to 50-year-old men, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
According to a recent study from Australia's Sax Institute, even light smokers double their risk of early death. “People don’t realize how damaging even light smoking is for your health—for cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and a range of other conditions," says study co-author Freddy Sitas. Next time you want to have “just one”—don’t.
David Nieman, Ph.D., a health and exercise science specialist in Boone, NC, has found that 90 minutes or more of continuous, moderate- to high-intensity, exercise weakens the immune system, making you more prone to illness. This effect can last up to 72 hours. If you don’t give yourself proper time to recover after working out and put too much stress on your body while training, you could be doing more harm than good.
You may have to eat a frozen meal now and then, but don’t make it a habit. Packaged foods are loaded with sodium and other preservatives. The FDA suggests sticking to no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day—that’s one teaspoon of salt. A typical frozen entrée can easily pack more than 30% of your sodium intake for the day, so check the label before plopping one in your grocery basket.
A bad pair of shoes doesn’t just lead to foot pain, it can also cause problems throughout your body: “Your feet are the foundation of your body, and if they are not properly supported you can have problems anywhere from the bottom of your feet up through your neck,” explains Jeffery Solomon, D.C., president of the American Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries & Physical Fitness. Choose your footwear wisely—if you have a long commute on foot, find a good pair of walking shoes that best mimics barefoot walking, then put your dress shoes on at the office.
A study from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that stretching as a complement to exercise may help decrease injury. Stretching in the morning also gets your body moving for the day (helping you avoid the snooze button), encourages blood flow throughout the body, and can improve your flexibility.
Water keeps you hydrated, helps transports oxygen through your body, removes waste and toxins, protects your organs—and the list goes on. You always hear the old rule of thumb that you should drink eight glasses of water a day, but it really is true. Staying hydrated throughout the day will help you feel better mentally and physically.
You know the drill: Even when it's cloudy, skin-damaging UVA and UVB rays can still increase your risk for developing skin cancer. If broad-spectrum sunblock feels too thick to slather on every morning, find a daily moisturizer that offers the same protection against UVA and UVB rays, and use it year-round.
Even if your new girl's on the pill, use protection anyway—because pregnancy's not your only concern. The CDC reports that between 2008 and 2012 the chlamydia rate among men increased by 25%, while gonorrhea shot up 4% between 2011 and 2012. These are two of the most common STDs in America, and wearing condoms is an easy way to significantly lower your risk.
Coffee has its perks, like boosting endurance and delivering a hefty dose of antioxidants, but too much joe can do more than make you jittery. A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that men who drink more than 28 cups of coffee a week have a 56% higher risk of dying from any cause.
If you have an injury that requires an ankle or knee brace and the doctor has prescribed one, then it should be worn. However, do not wear it at the gym on a regular basis. “On all but the heaviest lifts, meaning at or near one-rep max, weight belts should not be worn," explains Matt Tuthill, C.S.C.S. "By giving continuous external support to the muscles of the core, you weaken these muscles over time. Heavy squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, etc. all train the abs when performed without any lifting gear; a belt eliminates this benefit.”
101 Best Workouts of All Time is the ultimate answer to the question "What workout should I do?" No matter what equipment you have available, from a fully stocked supergym to a pair of mismatched dumbbells in your garage, or nothing but your body weight alone, you can build muscle, lose fat, and sculpt the physique you've always wanted.
"A cartoon showing a group waiting to take the elevator up one flight to the gym is characteristic of our culture," says David Katz, M.D., director of Yale University's Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Sure, high-intensity exercise is great, but frequent bouts (read: getting up and moving throughout the day) of light exercise are too. Just because you get your workout in at 6a.m. doesn't mean you're fine sitting the rest of the day. The two are not mutually exclusive.
A study from Loughborough University found as little as nine days of intense training caused significant and progressive decline in sleep quality among 13 expert-level male cyclists, and both their moods and capacity for exercise deteriorated over the period of observation. One behavior that helped? Eating carbs. The group of athletes who received a high-carbohydrate intervention experienced reduced effects of hard training and logged more sleep—though researchers believe this also indicates a greater need to recover when following a carb-rich diet during a rigorous training program. You heard the scientists: Carbs and chill are the recipe for success.
You’re not being an exhibitionist by sleeping naked. You’re doing your body a solid. Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Development found men who wear boxers during the day and go nude at night had a 25 percent lower rate of damaged DNA in their sperm when compared to men who wear tight underwear day and night. It’ll help keep your temperature regulated while you sleep so you can sleep soundly and avoid restlessness. You’ll burn more calories and increase your good brown fat in the process, AND your odds of getting lucky are pretty high now that you’re sleeping au naturel with your lady.
We’ve all succumbed to late-night cravings, but a University of California study finds raiding the fridge could be affecting us beyond disrupting our sleep or packing on the pounds (as if that isn't bad enough). Researchers found midnight snacking impairs the hippocampus, the part of our brains where memories are formed. “We have provided the first evidence that taking regular meals at the wrong time of day has far-reaching effects for learning and memory," lead study author Dawn Loh told the Daily Mail. "Since many people find themselves working or playing during times when they’d normally be asleep, it is important to know that this could dull some of the functions of the brain.”
Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (which experts previously recommended) isn’t enough for your heart, according to research published in the journal Circulation. Sorry, but you gotta get your ass back in the gym, or sweat longer. The researchers found men and women who exercised twice and four times as long had a “substantial risk reduction” of heart failure—up to 20 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
Turns out you really can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Research from Stony Brook University indicates sleeping on your side—either one—is way more effective in removing waste matter from your brain and reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases than sleeping on your back or stomach. While you sleep, a system in your brain called the glymphatic pathway clears harmful chemicals that are produced during the day—much like how your lymphatic system clears any waste from your organs. So, long story short: Sleep on your side.
Are you a perfectionist? Cut it out. Or at least strive for excellence instead. According to a study from Canada’s University of York, because of the constant stress, perfectionists are more susceptible to psychological pain and hopelessness, two factors that play a role in suicide.
Research from the University of British Columbia is urging you to put down the phone and walk away—STAT. Obsessively checking your email or immediately responding when your inbox fills up is seriously stressing you out. But a simple trick can help. Limit yourself to checking in time chunks—up to three times daily for a week. Participants who were able to do this felt less stressed. Now doesn’t that sound better than a major psychological meltdown?
"People may forget what health is actually for—and that's a better quality of life," says Katz. "We should invest in health for the sake of living better, not turn it into some kind of status symbol," he explains. Instead of comparing your progress or your physique to others you see on social media (Instagram can be a godsend and a curse), work on completing your own goals and bettering yourself, not emulating someone else.
If you only associate massages with female-focused spas, piano music, and aromatherapy, think again. And then get over your stereotype because massages are one of the greatest recovery tools for athletes. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicineshowed just 45–60 minutes of relaxation massage lowered subjects’ heart rates by more than 10 beats per minute. And that's not all. It lowered their blood pressure and promoted production of serotonin—the sleep hormone. Regular massages can reduce anxiety, eliminate excess stress, and keep cortisol levels in control so your immune system stays in shape. It's time you make an appointment.
Casual sex doesn't—and shouldn't, according to researchers from Cornell University—have to be frowned upon. Scientists asked college students to document their sexual encounters for 12 weeks, and monitored their overall well-being. Students who had sex with someone they didn’t know very well (a.k.a they weren’t emotionally attached to) reported a higher sense of well-being and less stress after sex than after no sex at all. Once casual encounter a week seemed to do the trick, but don't go on a one-night stand frenzy—there aren't any health benefits to back that up... just a higher risk for an STI. Kissing also boosts your immune system, so if you're lacking a significant other, get on it.