Think you're aware of all of your bad habits? Everyday millions of people are unwittingly affecting their health with the little choices they make. Here are the top seven worst offenders--are you guilty of any of these?
1. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation puts your body under stress and disrupts the regulation and release of many regulatory hormones. Besides increasing the risk of heart disease and reducing the body's ability to fight infection, research shows the less someone sleeps, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese and crave higher calorie foods. Those who sleep five hours or less are more likely to become obese than those who sleep seven hours or more a night. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, "the optimal amount of sleep needed to perform adequately, avoid sleep debt, and not have problems...during the day is about 7-8 hours for adults."
2. Too Much Screen Time
Whether it's your computer, phone, television, or some other screen--using it more than two hours a day can lead to weight problems, and more than four hours a day increases the risk of various diseases.
When using a screen, the body's calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to a third of what it would be while walking; the enzymes responsible for breaking down and vacuuming up fat out of the blood stream plunge and causes the levels of "good" cholesterol to fall; and insulin effectiveness drops within one day, raising the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Get active when you have to use screen time (like using a sit/stand work station). At home, talk to your family about the importance of reducing screen time and work together to find other activities that don't require a screen.
3. Skipping Meals
If you skip meals because you don't have time or you want to reduce your total calories during the day, you're making a big mistake. Skipping meals will likely make you feel hungrier and cause you to eat more than you normally would at your next meal. Skipping breakfast, in particular has been linked to obesity.
Be sure to eat balanced meals or snacks every four to five hours to keep your appetite at bay and your metabolism revved.
4. Drinking Your Calories
If the majority of your drinks contain some sort of added sugar (sports drinks, sodas, fruit punch, or specialty coffees or teas), you are consuming calories that have no nutritional value or filling affect. According to the American Heart Association, consuming added sugar regularly, can lead to extra pounds and obesity.
Consider herbal teas or making your own fruit-infused water if you need a little extra flavor.
5. Not Eating Fruits and Vegetables
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fruits and vegetables protect against heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure, and prevent painful intestinal issues, common causes of vision loss, and some types of cancer. If you aren't eating these foods, you are at greater risk for all of these ailments.
Make an effort to include one fruit and vegetable serving in at least two of your meals every day.
6. Sitting All Day
Whether you work, commute, and/or go to school, you are likely sitting all day. And even if you're an avid exerciser The National Institutes of Health say long periods of sitting is linked to a shorter lifespan and a wide range of medical problems. Sitting greatly reduces muscle contractions and slows the metabolism. This lowers calorie burn, and increases storage of unused energy to fat.
Take a few minutes every hour to get up and move around. Breaking up sitting time with short bursts of activity is associated with various health benefits.
7. Not Exercising
Exercise gets the blood pumping, increases "good" cholesterol, strengthens bones and muscles, and reduces the risk for various health problems like type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, and arthritis. Without exercise, you are at greater risk for disease. Additionally you may experience low energy, stiff joints, poor circulation, and difficulty performing physical work. In one study, individuals who were obese and performed no exercise lost about seven years of life compared to active, normal-weight individuals.
Adults should aim to exercise at least 150 minutes a week. If getting in regular exercise is difficult, break up the time into 10 minute increments throughout the day.
Mandy Seay is a bilingual registered and licensed dietitian who holds both a bachelor's degree in nutrition and in journalism. After gaining 30 pounds while living abroad, Mandy worked to lose the weight and regain her health. It was here that she discovered her passion for nutrition and went on to pursue a career as a dietitian. Mandy currently works as a nutrition consultant and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she specializes in diabetes, weight management and general and preventive nutrition. She recently published her first book, Your Best Health, a personalized program to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. Please visit Mandy's website at Nutritionistics.com.