Bad Habits That Are Good for You
By Rachel Naud
You might be embarrassed to admit that you don’t make your bed in the morning or you tap your foot under your desk at work. But it turns out these and other tendencies could actually be healthy habits for your body and mind. Here's what experts have to say about good vices.
Your Morning Cup
Coffee is good for more than just keeping you awake. According to researchers at the University of Scranton, coffee is also a powerful source of antioxidants that can reduce your risk of liver and colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes. Coffee also happens to be the most-consumed antioxidant-rich food in the U.S. The leader of the study, Joe Vinson, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, advises spacing out your cups throughout the day to get optimal benefits from this healthy habit. And if coffee gives you the jitters? Try black tea instead.
Surfing the Web
All those hours you spend on Google may not be a waste of time after all. A study at the University of California at Los Angeles found that just one week of frequent Web browsing can increase your brain's complex-reasoning hubs.“When you're using the Internet, you're controlling your short-term memory and decision-making abilities,” says Gary Small, a physician and professor of psychiatry at UCLA. “It's good to exercise that part of the brain and gain useful mental talents that help us in everyday life.”
Remember all those times Mom told you to sit still? Turns out the opposite might be better. A small study by the Mayo Clinic found that obese people burned 350 fewer calories from non-exercise activities a day than thin people. Why? Slimmer people tend to be more fidgety during their daily activities, while overweight folks sit still. Of course, fidgeting can’t take the place of regular exercise -- but these findings suggest that adding a little more wiggling, dancing and toe tapping to your day could help you on your way to being fit.
Sure, a nicely made bed looks neat and comfy, but if you don't let your mattress and sheets air out in the morning, you could be welcoming some extra bed buddies -- say, 1.5 million of them. Microscopic dust mites feed on scales of human skin and cause asthma and other allergies, but an unmade bed is an inhospitable environment for them. “Beds covered with sheets and bedspreads can stay moist enough to provide an ongoing ‘bed and breakfast’ for dust mites,” says Allen P. Rathey, president of The Healthy House Institute. Give your sheets time to air and dry out before tucking them in again.
Feeling hungry, anxious or stressed? Pop a piece of gum. Studies have shown that chewing gum can help you focus, relieve stress and stave off hunger -- not to mention keep your teeth healthy. “Chewing gum can relieve tension because it's sort of like punching a pillow. It helps take the focus off whatever it is you're stressing about and helps release nervous energy,” says Marjorie Nolan, registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Moreover, chewing sugar-free gum helps clear away food residue and increases saliva production, resulting in cleaner teeth.