We all know the healthy behaviors we should be doing every day, like stretching before workouts, flossing our teeth, skipping added sugar, and eating our breakfast. But no one is a picture of perfect health behavior all the time. Even the most conscientious dentist probably skips flossing on occasion, and even the healthiest eaters may get too rushed to eat a proper breakfast once in a while. But just how bad are health sins like not flossing, drinking a glass of wine every day, or adding sugar to your coffee? Are they a minor offense, a health misdemeanor or a felony-level wellness offense? We dug around to see what the experts say about just how bad these 10 bad-for-you behaviors are, and what they actually recommend for better health.
Not Stretching Before Working Out 1 of 10
It seems like the jury has gone back and forth on if exercisers should stretch before workouts, and what types of stretches you should do. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), static stretching before workouts can actually hinder performance without decreasing the risk of injury. Flexibility training is still super important, ACE says, but save static stretches for the post-workout when your muscles are warm. As for that warm-up, ACE recommends warming up with dynamic exercises, like arm circles and leg swings, to prepare the body for movement.
Offense Level: Misdemeanor. Even a brief walk is better than going straight into your workout.
Photo credit: lululemon athletica, Flickr
Not Flossing Your Teeth 2 of 10
Flossing is one of those daily chores that can be overlooked when you're feeling a little lazy or when you're pressed for time. While it was once thought that gum disease increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, that no longer appears to be the case. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take good care of your teeth. Flossing is important to remove plaque from between the teeth, and it also helps prevent gum disease and cavities. And just because you brush regularly doesn't mean you should skip the floss. The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day for optimal oral health, so pick a time you're most likely to have a spare minute and commit. Flossing before bed is great because it ensures you go to bed with a clean mouth.
Offense Level: Minor. While daily flossing is ideal, don't lose sleep if you miss a day. Brush well and get in there the next day.
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt, Flickr
Drinking Soda 3 of 10
Drinking a full-calorie soda is a one-way ticket to extra empty calories. But, is drinking a zero-calorie diet soda the way to go, either? Some experts say diet soda is no better than the regular calorie stuff because the body gets confused when it gets a sweet taste without the calories. Diet soda drinkers may even pack on more pounds than those who drink the regular stuff. Another study links diet soda drinkers with a higher risk of stroke, and another study suggests that there's a link between diet soda consumption and depression. Even though researchers warn that studies don't prove cause and effect, you can be confident that water is always a better choice.
Offense Level: Misdemeanor. While not the worst thing you can do for your health, water is always the way to go.
Photo credit: Sh4rp_i , Flickr
Missing A Birth Control Pill 4 of 10
Forgot to take a birth control pill? Follow the instructions on your pack of birth control pills for exactly what to do. Most often, you take the pill as soon as you remember, so that may mean doubling up on pills. But because any missed pills increase the chance you'll ovulate, it's recommended to use backup birth control --- unless you're okay with an oops. If you're consistently forgetting birth control pills, it may be better to go with an option you don't have to think about daily, like a birth control shot, an implant, or IUD.
Offense Level: Misdemeanor. For optimal protection, it's best to make sure you're on the ball when it comes to your BC.
Photo credit: thoughtcatalog.com, Flickr
Popping Too Many Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers 5 of 10
If you pop over-the-counter pills every day, be aware of a few things. Just because they don't require a prescription doesn't mean that they aren't potent or potentially dangerous. But over-the-counter medications are safe, provided you're following the label's instructions. Don't take more than the recommended amount unless you're specifically directed to do so by a doctor, and tell your doctor if you're regularly taking any painkillers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin, because combining these with other drugs can quickly cause them to reach toxic levels. For instance, don't combine a cold and flu medication that contains Tylenol with your regular dose of Tylenol. When in doubt, check with your doctor or pharmacist.
It's also recommended to see your doctor if you're taking over-the-counter medications for longer than 10 days for pain and longer than three days for fever. And don't forget, the combination of alcohol and acetaminophen can be dangerous to the liver, so let your doctor know if you have more than a few drinks a day.
Offense Level: Felony. Don't discount the power of OTC medications.
Photo credit: blmurch, Flickr
Eating Lunch At Your Desk 6 of 10
It appears that there are benefits and drawbacks to munching on lunch at your desk. Some studies show that eating at your desk may make you more productive in the sluggish afternoons, while other sources say that you're exposed to more germs at your desk than you would be in a bathroom. Plus, when you eat while distracted, you may tend to eat too much. Too much sitting has also been linked to back pain and a risk of obesity and heart disease, so instead of staring at your computer during lunch, take a break. Step away from work for a moment. Eat in peace.
Offense Level: Minor. Because there are pros and cons to eating at your desk, this one isn't a biggie. Just try to get away from your desk for a mental and physical work break most days, and keep your desk area as clean as possible for the times you eat at your desk!
Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov, Flickr
Adding Sugar To Your Coffee 7 of 10
Added sugar in your foods and beverages add calories to your diet without adding nutrients. You want to cut down on added sugars when possible, so nixing that lump of sugar from your morning coffee is one solid way to do so. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. So if you're good about avoiding added sugars in soft drinks, candy, and cookies, that morning coffee isn't that much of a concern. But if you're looking to decrease your sugar intake, try slowly decreasing the amount of sugar you add to your coffee.
Offense Level: Minor. As far as vices go, there are worse offenses. If you go for multiple cups of Joe each day, try to cut out some sugar elsewhere.
Photo credit: dearoot, Flickr
Skipping Breakfast 8 of 10
You've always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it's true. The evidence for breakfast just keeps adding up. Not only is it another opportunity to get loads of nutrition, right off the bat in the morning, but it can help you later in the day. In one study, those who ate a protein-rich breakfast reduced evening snacking on high-fat, high-sugar foods. Plus, kids who eat breakfast do better in school, pay better attention, and are less likely to be overweight. Healthy breakfasts are also associated with better memory and improved mood. Other studies have shown that men who skipped breakfast had a higher risk of heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease. Simply put, there is no good reason to skip breakfast.
Offense Level: Felony. The studies (and moms) don't lie: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Photo credit: Cillian Storm, Flickr
Drinking Alcohol Every Day 9 of 10
There's a clear difference between enjoying a glass of wine or spirits every day and what constitutes "binge drinking." By definition, a "binge" is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings the blood alcohol concentration to .08 or above, which for women is equal to four or more drinks in about two hours. This type of behavior is associated with a number of health problems, from injuries to sexually transmitted diseases to cardiovascular and liver diseases. While too much alcohol isn't a good thing, you don't necessarily need to abstain. In fact, some studies suggest that wine in moderation is actually good for your heart health and that drinking any alcoholic beverages could benefit the health. It looks that you certainly don't need to give up all of your hot toddies to stay in ship shape, but make sure you're exercising moderation in your drinking.
Offense Level: Minor. While binge drinking is a no-no, drinking in moderation can be good for your health.
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Using Your Tech Gadgets or Watching TV Before Bed 10 of 10
It seems that gadgets like smartphones, computers, and TV can be disruptive to sleep. The devices stimulate brain activity, disrupting your ability to fall asleep, and studies even show that the bright lights may affect sleep-promoting chemicals. Plus, who hasn't put off sleep to finish an exciting episode of Law & Order, or checked a text message as you were about to drift off? So flip off those phones and turn off the telly to get the best sleep possible. (And click here for more sleep tips.)
Offense Level: Minor. If you have trouble drifting off, give your gadgets a shut-down well before bed. If you're not having troubles falling or staying asleep, don't lose sleep over it.
Photo credit: DeclanTM, Flickr