Don’t feel guilty the next time you miss an exercise session or accidentally let a swear word slip. You’d be surprised at the health benefits associated with some of these so-called ‘bad habits’.
1. Skipping your daily workout
Personal trainers preach the importance of the occasional day off to give muscles the chance to rebuild and strengthen. In fact, for seniors, four workouts a week is more beneficial than six, according to a study published in Medical and Science in Sports and Exercise.
If your exercise schedule is leaving you drained and laid out on the couch for the rest of the day, it’s time to cut back.
2. Drinking too much coffee
People who drink a lot of coffee – we’re talking at least three cups a day – have been shown to have lower risks of certain types of cancer, including prostate, skin and oral cancer. Coffee, after all, is rich in the antioxidants and polyphenols that attack cancer-causing free radicals. Moderate consumption of coffee has also been linked to a decreased risk of Type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.
So why do many doctors and naturopaths encourage people to cut back? For one, those who have a genetic mutation that causes them to break down coffee slowly can actually have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease if they sip more than two cups of java a day. Moreover, drinking too much coffee can mean you’re not getting enough water and it can also lead to insomnia and anxiety. So what’s the magic number? Figure out what works better with your own healthy eating, fitness and sleep routines.
3. Not choosing the ‘low-fat’ option
No, we’re not about to open the floodgates and say deep-fried foods or butter drenched popcorn are healthy. But always refusing foods high in fat can be harmful.
Fat is essential in the absorption of some vitamins and required by our body to produce hormones. And unsaturated fats, including vegetable oils and nuts, reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure and can improve blood cholesterol, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Meanwhile, several studies published in recent years show that unsaturated fat found in olive oil, avocados and fish can reduce one’s risk of depression and memory loss.
Still haven’t mastered sitting still despite decades of scolding and complaints? You likely have a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI) because of it, according to Dr. James Levine, a physician at the Mayo Clinic who researches the relationship between non-planned movements and weight.
One study by the Mayo Clinic tracked the movements of 10 obese and 10 lean individuals. Researchers found that the leaner people, on average, moved for 150 minutes more a day and burned 350 calories more. But the “exercise” wasn’t intentional. The individuals were just more likely to stand up, bounce a knee, or move around in their chair.
In 2011, Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, tested the ability of participants to withstand stressful situations by having them put their hands in ice-cold water and timing how long they could stand it. Those who were encouraged to swear lasted double as long as those who were asked to repeat a neutral word.
That said, those who already swore dozens of times a day didn’t perform any better in the task than the “neutral word” control group. The researchers’ theory is that swearing can release adrenaline, which makes the body more resilient to stress and relieves pain. However, those who overuse curse words wear out their beneficial effect. So go ahead and curse when the situation requires it, but don’t swear like a sailor in everyday conversation.
6. Devouring chocolate
In recent years, dark chocolate (with at least 60 per cent cocoa) has been praised for its cancer-fighting power and the blood pressure-reducing ability of its flavanols. Plus, those who truly savour chocolate in moderation – those who embrace “mindful eating” in other words – are less likely to overindulge on sugar and carbs throughout the day.
For example, a 2012 study at Ohio State University found diabetic patients who went through a “mindful eating” course were just as successful at losing weight as those who took the typical nutrition programme route. According to the study, learning how to pay attention to the body’s signs of hunger and satisfaction and to eat “in the moment” was shown to be just as helpful as learning about reading food labels and choosing nutritious meals.
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