Our bodies are skillfully designed to provide structure, movement, clear thought, and energy. But when things aren’t functioning properly, one or all of these systems take a hit. Even if you think you’re on top of every latest health craze, you may be hurting yourself without even knowing it. In fact, you’re likely doing things every day to cause unknown wear and tear on your body. Here are some of the worst things you do to your body.
Although our bodies are meant to bend and stretch, we need to use caution with certain movements. One of the most common causes of back injuries happens with the simple act of bending over. When you hinge your body from the waist, it creates a strain on the muscles and ligaments in your lower back. Just bending over to grab plates from the lower rack of the dishwasher or snatching a shirt off the ground can be enough to throw you out of alignment or pull a muscle. It’s important to use proper form by bending your legs and using the muscles of the upper thighs and quads to lift your body rather than relying on the more susceptible muscles of the back. Protect your knees (another common problem area) by making sure your knees do not extend past your toes during your squats. Keeping this in mind will force the body to use the proper muscles during those repeated dips to unload the dishwasher!
It’s great that you hit the gym or drop to the ground while brushing your teeth to incorporate a core workout. But those traditional sit-ups that many of us were taught as part of our elementary school Presidential testing requirements can be detrimental to your back. Between driving your lower spine into the ground and taking the chance of pulling or tweaking your very important hip flexors, sit-ups are pretty much a bad choice all the way around around. According to Harvard Health, even the replacement curl ups are on the chopping block because like sit-ups, they only target the stomach muscles, rather than focusing on strengthening the entire core. But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to strengthen your core without spine-crushing results. The plank is effective for overall strengthening and forgiving on the body at the same time. Also try some low-impact yoga or pilates for moves that work towards creating six-pack abs in a safer way.
You’ve heard the advice for years, mostly as a disclaimer, “Ask your medical professional before beginning any exercise regimen,” but there is some serious truth to the statement. Especially if you are transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle, making sure that you don’t have any underlying medical conditions is an important first step. Jumping into a new workout, galloping off for a long run, or diving into an intermediate exercise class when you’re not primed can have devastating results. Pulled muscles, sprains, joint injuries, cardiovascular problems, and even a rare but deadly phenomenon called rhabdomyolysis can tank your best intentions for a healthier lifestyle. Don’t let any of this discourage you. Just find an activity you love, create a plan to start slow, and talk to your medical professional.
While there are plenty of movements that can hurt your body, the most dangerous thing you can do is NOT move your body. Not only does inertia contribute to cardiovascular ailments and diabetes, but as the saying goes, “motion is lotion.” Your joints and muscles are made to move and when they are denied that movement they become stiff and dangerously immobile. Sitting in particular is surprisingly tough on a body. posture creates pressure for the lower back and hips, a central area that your entire body relies on for support. Plus, it causes strain to your neck, shoulders, and upper back. It’s also not great for your feet and lower legs, circulation, and even your focus. Of course we’re not telling you to avoid sitting all together. But, make sure you get up and move around every 30 minutes. Set a timer. Fill your water glass every hour so that if nothing else, your bladder will remind you to get up and move. When you are sitting, make sure to use good posture and support your lower back as well as use proper form while working at a desk. Consider using a yoga ball as a chair or investing in a standing station as a desk option.
As a culture, we have accepted stress as part of the norm in our daily lives. From work to home maintenance to kids’ activities we push our calendar well beyond the hours that a day holds. With the chaos brings stress. And it’s literally killing us. This article from UCLA Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research argues that stress causes inflammation and, “All told, inflammation is involved in at least 8 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States today. Understanding how inflammation promotes poor health, and how and when we can intervene to reduce inflammation-related disease risk, should thus be a top scientific and public priority.” Some suggestions from us? Meditate, spend time in nature, laugh, play with pets, prioritize a hobby, and exercise.
Along with proper body movement and alignment comes proper nutrition. Working out five times a week is great, but if you’re fueling those workouts with fast food and Cheetos, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Again referencing the UCLA article above, remember that in addition to stress, the food you eat directly contributes to inflammation in the body. Of course there are myriad beliefs as to what foods are good or bad, but keep it simple–aim to drink plenty of water and load up on fruits and vegetables. Embrace whole grains, get plenty of fiber, and try new things!
Cheers to caring for your body so that it can return the favor!