- There are certain everyday habits that hurt your body.
- The way you sit in an office chair, drive your car, or eat your breakfast can have a serious effect on your health.
- INSIDER spoke to several experts about these harmful habits and how to fix them.
- Overall, making minor changes can have a huge impact.
Most people put a lot of effort into doing things that keep them healthy, whether that’s getting enough sleep or fitting exercise into their routine. And there are even things they avoid, like smoking or drinking in excess, to maintain their health. But what about the lesser known habits that hurt your health: the ones you may unintentionally do every day?
The way you sit in your car, rake the lawn, or even eat breakfast can lead to health problems down the line. Fortunately, many of these problems are preventable with a little extra effort and care.
To learn more about the little ways you unintentionally hurt your body, I reached out to several experts in different areas of the health field. Here’s their take on everything from your posture to your diet.
You sit at your desk incorrectly
Anyone who works at a desk for long hours probably knows all about the agony of an ill-fitting office chair. But even in a good chair, poor posture can make you feel uncomfortable, potentially leading to more chronic aches and pains. In fact, conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon injuries, and muscle strains can result from poor workday posture, as noted by WebMD.
As media spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association Dr. Keith Overland told INSIDER, many people sit on the edge of their chair like it’s a bench, then arch their neck up to stare at the monitor. This strained position can lead to chronic pain.
Instead, Overland suggested investing in an ergonomically sound office chair and sitting in properly. To do so, sit back in the chair with your feet flat on the ground in a neutral, relaxed position. Also, keep your back supported, either by investing in a chair with back support or by slipping a small pillow behind your back. Overall, you want your body in a neutral, relaxed position.
You skip meals
Sure, there may be a place for intentional fasting, which has a long history in certain cultural and religious traditions. Skipping meals at random, however, is not advised.
“It leads to overfeeding eventually, and that is highly detrimental to oxidative state leading to stress and inflammation,” Dr. Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center, told INSIDER. Instead of passing on breakfast or working through lunch, it’s better for your nutritional health to eat at least three times a day, ideally getting some vegetables and fruit with each meal, as Apovian further explained.
You sit wrong in your car
Even when you’re stuck in traffic, posture matters. Overland recommended placing a pillow in the small of your back for support.
It’s also helpful to sit as close to the steering wheel as is comfortable. (I know: it looks cooler when you drive reclined.) Sitting up straight is important, though. To give the body even more support, make sure your knees are slightly higher than your hips.
You don’t eat protein at breakfast
Do you eat breakfast but still feel like you’re starving before lunchtime? An important component might be missing from your first meal of the day.
“Make sure you eat protein for breakfast,” Apovian said. Protein increases feelings of fullness and reduces snacking on unhealthy food later in the evening, according to a 2013 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nut butters, eggs, and yogurt can add some staying power to your breakfast.
You sit still for too long
By this point, most people know that sitting for long periods can be harmful. In fact, prolonged periods of inactivity are associated with an overall higher rate of mortality, according to an October 2017 study in Annals of Internal Medicine. In other words, sitting still for too long can take a toll on your health.
It’s easy enough to get up and wander around the office every hour, but what if you’re stuck sitting for a long period on a plane? Jumping jacks aren’t ideal, but it’s possible to sneak in a little bit of exercise. Even opening and closing your toes, tightening your glute muscles, and rolling your shoulders around can help, as Overland explained.
“The body likes movement and stretching,” he said. Coming up with simple exercises for long car and plane rides can make the whole more experience more pleasant for your body.
You skip the SPF
Skipping sunscreen on an overcast day is not an option.
“UVA rays penetrate through the clouds and through the windows,”dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman told INSIDER. “So even if you’re inside and you’re sitting anywhere near a window you will still get sun damage.” Covering your entire face with an SPF 30 or higher, no matter the season or time of year, is the best course of action.
If this seems like repetitious advice, consider this: most people need to use sunscreen on a more regular basis. In fact, only 14.3 percent of men and 29.9 percent of women regularly use sunscreen on their face and exposed skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). As further noted by the AAD, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer, although it’s the most preventable type of cancer. Slather on that SPF, people.
You avoid fruits and vegetables
Foods with processed sugar can be tempting, but they can cause stiffness and inflammation in the skin.
“It’s best to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables with a high concentration of antioxidants instead, such as berries,” Jaliman said.
Although it’s possible to eat too much fruit in a day, a diet rich in plants is often recommended. In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults eat three to four cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit each day. Across the board, adults 18 and older are not hitting these basic guidelines.
You go too hard on household chores
Can you hurt yourself vacuuming? In a word, yes. Simple activities, such as raking the lawn or shoveling snow, can cause an unexpected number of injuries.
“Many patients show up for these minor injuries as a result of things they could have prevented almost 100 percent of the time,” Overland said. Weekend warrior activities in general can be problematic, because people tend to do yard work or gardening all in one fell swoop. This can overwork and strain muscles. By doing some simple stretches before these chores, and taking breaks during the activity, you can make the whole process easier on your body.