There are many different things that can be detrimental to your health — but here are 10 health mistakes you really need to avoid:
Health mistake 1: Substituting the gym for daily activity
It’s great that you go to the gym three times a week, for an hour a time, but overall, that amounts to three hours a week of activity out of a potential 168! It’s not so great when you put it like that, is it? In a fascinating study at the University of Maastricht, researchers found that gym-goers burn fewer calories on an overall weekly basis than people who are generally active (walking and cycling to get around and performing normal daily activities) but do no ‘official’ exercise. The researchers speculated that gym goers in the study subconsciously used less energy the rest of the time, believing that they had ‘done their bit’ already. So by all means, keep up the gym visits, but don’t think it gives you carte blanche to spend the rest of the day on the sofa!
Health mistake 2: Thinking ‘low fat’ means ‘low calorie’
If more of us made ‘always read the label’ our mantra, we’d be a healthier nation! Lots of us scoff down foods flagged up as ‘reduced fat’ or ‘low fat’, believing that they must be low calorie. But here’s the thing: firstly, just because the fat has been ‘reduced’, it doesn’t mean the product is actually low in fat. For example, if the original fat content of a standard product is 20g, and in the reduced-fat version it has been reduced to 15g, it is still five times higher than the ‘3g of fat per serving’ that officially qualifies a food as ‘low fat’. Secondly, lost flavor is often replaced by sugar in reduced fat products, and calorie count remains high. Don’t diet in denial — read the label!
Health mistake 3: Social smoking
You might think that the ‘odd cigarette’ that you have with a few drinks on a night out is pretty harmless, but you are treading on dangerous ground with a drug as addictive as nicotine. It only takes seconds for nicotine to reach the brain, but its effects — including increased nervous system activity, elevated heart rate, blood sugar elevation and narrowing of the blood vessels — can last for an entire day. And it doesn’t matter if you smoke only one cigarette a week or one pack — the damaging effects start right away and get worse as you continue smoking. Also, people who only smoke occasionally are less likely to ever stop smoking than heavier smokers. And what if your occasional smoke is a joint? Well, while it’s unlikely that you would smoke as many joints as cigarettes, marijuana has three times the amount of tar as tobacco and three to five times the amount of carbon monoxide.
Health mistake 4: Drinking too much caffeine
There is nothing wrong with the odd cup of tea or coffee, but if the staff in Starbucks know you by name, you may be overdoing it! Excessive caffeine intake overstimulates the adrenal glands so that they become ‘switched on’ all the time, and therefore make you feel constantly nervy or edgy. Caffeine also increases the heart rate, affects sleep patterns and can cause headaches and tummy upsets. Also, bear in mind that if you drink cappuccinos or lattes, you are taking in quite a considerable number of calories in every cup. The best advice is to go for quality rather than quantity and to really savor a few cups of tea or coffee, rather than to drink it mindlessly throughout the day.
Health mistake 5: Keeping water in a re-used plastic bottle
Drinking plenty of water contributes to good health, but re-using a plastic bottle to store water in isn’t a good idea. While the jury is still out on whether there is any danger from potentially carcinogenic substances ‘leaching out’ from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles after they have been opened, a University of Calgary study found bacteria thriving in water samples taken from students’ bottles that had been used and then refilled without being cleaned. If you do choose to re-use a plastic bottle — or use a sports drink container — wash it out with hot soapy water and dry it thoroughly between uses to keep germs at bay.