There was a time when smoking cigarettes (or anything for that matter) was considered "cool." Times have changed. Ongoing research and medical studies now prove this archaic belief was a distorted perspective that people were sucked into by those in a position to profit from it.
Our health was not a consideration until death from cancer, emphysema and other smoking-related issues began surfacing at an alarming rate.
Fortunately, most of us have taken this knowledge to heart and now treat our bodies with great respect, at least when it comes to inhaling a foreign substance into our lungs.
However, just because we choose not to smoke does not give us a free ticket to perfect health. It certainly is a step in the right direction, but other more "modern" issues have surfaced that now replace smoking.
Let's look at a few lifestyle habits that stress our health (both mind and body) and what we can do to eliminate or reduce their effects.
Sitting tops the list
According to Dr James Levine, professor at Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Az., "sitting is the new smoking". Ongoing research backs his claims – too much sitting causes a host of health issues.
Studies were completed comparing two groups of people in similar jobs. One group consisted of transit drivers and the other guards or conductors. Both groups had similar lifestyles and eating habits. One thing, however, was vastly different. The amount of time they spent sitting daily.
The study clearly revealed that transit drivers required to sit while working daily were twice as likely to be struck with heart disease than those that stood while working such as conductors.
The raw truth is that sedentary lives only work for rocks. Trees, bushes, grass, and flowers all bend, sway and move with the wind. If they did not, they would break.
Our bodies are the same. They were created to move; they were never designed to sit. However, watching TV, browsing the Internet, sitting at a work desk and driving are all current, present-day activities that most of us perform over and over that require sitting.
So, let's be honest, computers and "sitting work-spaces" are not going away. We are the ones that must adjust.
If we want to avoid subjecting our health to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes and even dementia we must adapt and teach ourselves some new habits that get us up and moving while working or playing.
Even a little movement is better than none. Every 25 minutes spent sitting (whether at home or work), earns us five minutes of moving time.
This rule applies to everyone, even those that work out consistently.
Working out in the morning does not excuse sitting the rest of the day. Just be creative and take every opportunity whether working or not to stretch and to walk. Climb the stairs rather than ride and perform "desk" exercises (a wealth of those can be found online) when you take a break.
With so much sitting going on, it is not surprising that heart disease is the world's number one killer. "Sitting kills, moving heals."
Grazing all day long
Our bodies rely on the foods we eat for nutritional growth. However, unlike our ancestors, getting our allotment of food today is no longer an issue for most of us.
However, because fast food is so readily available and food deliveries are becoming the norm, overeating, or eating the wrong types of foods has become the new "thorn in our side."
Our bodies need time to rest and time to digest. Too much food beyond what our body requires adds weight and unhealthy fat and brings on a wealth of other health concerns.
Loading it down with excess or the wrong foods consistently brings on obesity, digestive problems, stress, heart disease and mental issues. It's best to avoid irregular eating by enjoying all meals within the same timeframe each day and focusing on consuming nutrients, not calories.
Adopting severe dieting restrictions
There is certainly no lack of choices when it comes to dieting. However, mindlessly adhering to fad diets that severely restrict what we eat only harms and reduces the amount of nutrition we get.
These types of demanding diets never work long-term. Once we reach our desired weight goal and return to normal eating, all the weight we struggled to lose, comes back with a vengeance.
If we are looking for permanent changes to our bodies, we must consciously shift and change our daily lifestyle habits to healthier ones.
Lack of quality sleep
The brain creates connections that help us to process and remember new information. Therefore, when we do not get enough sleep, our short-and long-term memory is negatively impacted.
Sleep deprivation dampens creativity and problem-solving skills. It affects our moods as well. We get cranky, quick-tempered and emotional when we lack sleep.
Anxiety and depression escalate, blood pressure increases, but our immune systems weaken (especially against common viruses). It also lowers libido and puts us at risk for diabetes because it affects how our body releases insulin.
It has even been known to cause weight gain as messed up "chemical messengers" that are supposed to signal to our brain that our "body is full" get distorted. Overeating and weight gain are the results.
This is just a short list of how damaging our lifestyle and daily habits can be yet encouraging because it puts us in charge. Hopefully, even this short list is enough info to shake people into healthy action.
My sage advice is: Don't take this news "sitting down."
Carolyn Hansen is co-owner Anytime Fitness