Increasing your daily water intake, upping your weekly workouts…these might seem like good ideas at the time, but they can actually be sabotaging your health, in some instances. Sometimes, we think we are taking all the right steps to get “healthy,” when we are actually, unknowingly, making innocent missteps. Here are some common habits that, on the surface, appear to be healthy, but when examined a little closer, might be preventing you from achieving your health goals.
Can there really be too much of a good thing, when it comes to exercise? As it turns out, that is a resounding yes. Too many trips to the gym, or spin classes, could actually be undoing all of your hard work, and that fitness goal you’ve been working towards.
Exercising helps you stay at a healthy weight, improves your cardiovascular health, and the increased endorphins can even help ward off depression. But it is possible to over-do it, and it can also have some serious health consequences. So, how does one quantify what is “too much” exercise? Well, it depends on things like your current health, your age, and your workout of choice. According to the CDC, adults should get around five hours per week of moderate exercise, or two and a half hours of more intense activity. And research shows that going way above and beyond that does not increase your health benefits1. So, while moderate exercise can improve your immune system, extreme physical activity can actually suppress it. This is something to keep in mind as you continue your workout regimen.
Taking too many antibiotics
Make no mistake about it, antibiotics are very important medications. They can prevent the spread of disease, and reduce complications associated with these diseases too. But some medications that used to be considered standard treatments for bacterial infections are now less effective, or do not work at all. When an antibiotic no longer has an effect on a certain strain of bacteria, those bacteria are said to be “antibiotic resistant”.
The overuse of antibiotics – especially taking antibiotics even when they’re not the appropriate treatment – promotes antibiotic resistance. According the CDC, up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is unnecessary or inappropriate2. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, but not viral infections. Common infections that do not benefit from antibiotic treatment include: cold, flu, bronchitis, stomach flu, most coughs, some sinus infections, and some ear infections. If you end up taking an antibiotic for any of these infections, it will not help you to feel better, it will not cure the infection, it may cause unnecessary and harmful side effects, and it promotes antibiotic resistance. If you take an antibiotic when you actually have a viral infection, the antibiotic will attack bacteria in your body, bacteria that are either beneficial, or that are not causing your disease. This misdirected treatment can then promote antibiotic resistant properties in harmless bacteria that can be shared with other bacteria, or create an opportunity for potentially harmful bacteria the replace the harmless ones.[Another good reason to keep up with your daily probiotic supplements to help restore the beneficial bacteria!] (or some short pitch for probiotics here…._
It is common sense that you should wash your hands before and after handling food, and after using the restroom. These things we know. We know that good hygiene is important, but did you know that being a germaphobe can actually be harmful to your health? Some people tend to wash their hands too frequently, which could post both immediate and long-term health problems.
The continued overuse of antibiotics has been an ongoing problem, but many don’t realize that these bacteria-killing agents find their way into soap too. As we frequently wash our hands with antibacterial soap, we are allowing antibiotic-resistant bacteria to form and thrive, which makes us more susceptible to illness3. Next time you go to the store, just remember that buying antibacterial soap is not necessary, regular soap is fine. Also, try to limit your handwashing to only when it is necessary.
Drinking too much water
No matter what medical issue you are dealing with, it seems like part of the advice is usually to drink more water. After all, all of the major systems of your body depend on water to work properly. Drinking adequate amounts of water helps your body to regulate its temperature, prevents constipation, flushes out waste, and more. What we aren’t often told about water is that you can have too much of a good thing. Consumerhealth.org cites that drinking more than 27-33 fluid ounces (about 3.5-4 cups) of water per hour can have negative consequences4. Overhydrating can lead to something called hyponatremia, which means that you are taking in more water than you’re peeing out. This makes your blood sodium levels dangerously low, leading to fatigue, vomiting, confusion, and headaches. There is no exact formula to determine how much to drink, as it depends on your age, sex, the weather, and your activity level…but you can keep an eye on the color of your urine. In a healthy person, pale yellow urine that resembles lemonade is a good goal to shoot for. Darker urine means you need more water, and colorless urine means that you are overhydrated.
Trying to develop healthy habits is hard enough as it is. And to think that some of these so-called “healthy” habits may actually lead to health problems is mind boggling. But if you notice that you have been practicing any of the overly “healthy” behaviors listed above, try and kick these habits to the curb!