9 Terrible Things Science Says You Do to Your Body Every Day

You try your best to eat healthy, exercise, and generally take good care of yourself. But what if all this time, a few bad habits are quietly working to undo all that effort, sapping your energy, and doing long-term damage to your health?

Here are the eight worst things that science says you do to your body. The worst part is, many of us do these things every single day.

1. Sitting All Day

Sitting has been called the younger generation's smoking. It's hard to believe that such a mundane, non-action can have such a big impact on health, but yes, it's really that bad for you. Research has shown that extended periods of sitting — classified as sitting for more than three hours at a time — significantly increases the risk of a number of health problems. Too much time on your butt can increase your risk of heart disease by as much as 64%. It puts you at a higher risk for certain types of cancer. It's linked to kidney disease. And it may shave as much as seven years off your life.

2. Wearing Tight Pants

Love your "skinny" jeans? Just make sure they aren't too skinny; too-tight jeans have been linked to nerve damage. That's right, too-tight jeans can compress a nerve in the groin, leading to a condition called meralgia paresthetica. That can lead to tingling, burning, and pain in the outer thigh that can last for weeks or even months after those jeans go out of style.

3. Letting Stress Get to You

Stress is an important physiological response, but while it's designed to give you the energy to, say, run away from a wild animal, it does little good when you're sitting in an office chair stressing about your to-do list. A 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association found that 45% of adults felt that their stress levels had increased over the last five years. When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life, it's considered "chronic," and that's when it can have major, long-term effects on your health. Stress has been shown to create muscle tension and pain, and because it typically increases heart rate and blood pressure, can contribute to heart disease. It can increase people's risk of Type 2 diabetes and create a whole host of other problems in your gastrointestinal, nervous and reproductive system.

4. Indulging Your Sweet Tooth

Even if you conscientiously avoid the office candy jar, you're probably eating too much sugar. It is estimated that most people consume as much as 500 extra calories per day through sugar. It's hard not to; sugar is in just about everything. Not only does eating too much make it hard to maintain a healthy weight (which presents a number of potential health problems in and of itself), sugar can also increase your risk of heart diseasecertain cancers, and the same kind of liver toxicity and health effects as you can get from overconsumption of alcohol.

5. Staying Indoors

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. That's only one half of one day per week spent outside. Not only does that typically mean way less exercise and fresh air than mom would have liked you to have, but staying inside comes with a long list of potential health risks. Getting some sun amps up vitamin D intake, an important vitamin that's hard to get in food — and is essential to health. Spending time outside also helps reduce stress and improve mental health.

6. Failing to Maintain Proper "Sleep Hygiene"

Sleep hygiene isn't about changing your sheets or taking a shower before bed. It's defined as the activities that contribute to better quality sleep. A survey conducted by the National Geographic Channel in 2014 found that 73% of people aged 18 and over sleep less than eight hours per night — although 54% said they needed at least that much to feel rested. The main reason we get so little sleep comes from failing to prioritize it — and engaging in a range of behaviors that make getting your daily dose much more difficult. So what does good sleep hygiene look like? It means avoiding stimulants like caffeine and alcohol in the evening hours, establishing a regular bedtime, keeping your bedroom dark, cool and free of distractions, and staying away from electronic devices before bed.

7. Eating Packaged Foods

Packaged foods are so convenient and so accessible that everyone tends to eat at least a few of them. Unfortunately, the vast majority of convenience food tends to be loaded with health saboteurs like trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, salt, and preservatives and additives, all of which have been shown to have negative health impacts.

8. Keeping the Lights On

When the sun sets, we turn on the lights — and our TVs, computers, and mobile devices. But not only does this tend to keep us up late, it also throws off the body's natural biological clock. Because the body's clock evolved to use light to determine when to sleep and wake, exposure to artificial light can contribute to sleep disorders. The impact the disruption of this rhythm can have on the body can also lead to immune system disorder, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast cancer.

9. Staying in a Boring Job

One more reason to quit: Being in a boring job is bad for your health. According to a paper published on the subject in 2012, boredom at work is associated with increased drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, depression and anxiety, and an increased risk of making work-related mistakes.

How many of these surprisingly unhealthy behaviors do you engage in each day?

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Guest's picture
Aunt Jenny

I feel like we as a society tend to glom on to whatever the latest fad is to help us feel better, when just getting back to the basic stuff, as discussed in the article, is really would be the most valuable. Some stress is unavoidable of course, but much of it we create for ourselves. We need to value ourselves enough to make the time to sleep, to get outside a bit, to relax, and to practice good nutrition. Back to basics.

Guest's picture

Staying in a boring job? I hated my job for years before I retired. If you have a job you like, boring or not, you should keep it. Being happy or content with what you do is more important than money. I'm enjoying retirement because of the job I worked at for decades provided me with the ability to retire early. So there are always trade-offs.