Unhealthy habits can start to develop over years, and you might not even notice. But these unhealthy habits can put you at risk of health problems later on, and making small changes now can drastically improve your future health. Are you looking for simple ways to boost your overall wellness? Look over this list carefully, think about which of these habits you might engage in often and plan to reduce them to improve your healthy lifestyle.
Break These Unhealthy Habits to Enjoy Improved Wellbeing
10. Not Setting Aside Time to Exercise
Living a sedentary lifestyle with little to no exercise can lead to serious health conditions; it’s associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Fortunately, for adults, the recommended amount of exercise is just 30 minutes per day — and you don’t even have to do it all at once.
For example, you might go for a 10-minute walk during the day and do 20 minutes of light weight lifting or cardiovascular exercise in the evening. There are even exercises you can perform when you're at work or while you’re traveling. Any movement at all is beneficial, even if it’s just a short walk around the office every hour. This keeps your cardiovascular system working, helps maintain muscle and bone strength and may have a positive impact on your mood and productivity.
9. Drinking Your Calories
Many people prefer drinking any other type of beverage than water. Companies have gone to great lengths to entice people to drink flavored beverages that are often full of sugar and calories. It’s easy to understand why people can consume a huge proportion of their daily calories simply from drinking tasty juices and sodas.
Diet drinks have become more popular, and they don’t contain the high levels of calories found in regular drinks, but they might not always be available. Alcoholic drinks also contain large amounts of calories. Fruit juices and smoothies, often seen as healthy alternatives, may also contain large quantities of sugar, which contributes to your daily calorie intake. To limit liquid calories, choose diet drinks where available or stick to water.
8. Having Too Much Junk Food
An addiction to junk food is something that gets harder to avoid as fast food becomes more widely available. In addition, people are leading busy lifestyles with less time to prepare healthful foods and seriously consider their dietary intake. Unhealthy snacks are often far easier to get ahold of than healthier snacks, and fast food, vending machine snacks and microwave meals quickly satisfy hunger pangs.
These types of "junk" meals are usually high in calories and sodium, which can lead to health complications like heart disease. They also often contain high levels of "bad" cholesterol, also known as HDL cholesterol. To avoid reaching for an easy junk food option, make an effort to have healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts, on hand, and make sure to eat before you become excessively hungry.
7. Eating in Front of the TV
Eating junk food is one problem, but doing it in front of the television can compound the issue by leading to obesity and other health complications. The main concern with eating in front of the TV is that you’re distracted. This means you’re less likely to pay attention to the volume of food you’re eating or your feelings of fullness.
Always eating while watching TV creates a habit; you might start to feel like you need to have food whenever you’re watching something, even if you’re not hungry. Try to separate meal time from TV-watching time. When you’re sitting down to a meal, try to concentrate only on eating. Eat slowly, savor your food and become aware of when you’re satisfied.
If you do want to have a snack while watching TV, substitute chips and candy for something less calorically dense, such as sliced fruit or vegetables. When you buy snacks, choose packs that are single portions rather than large family packs to reduce the temptation to overeat mindlessly.
6. Sleeping Abnormally
Skipping even one hour of sleep per day can have drastic effects on your health. Sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep are linked to strokes, hypertension and heart disease. Studies have also shown a correlation between Type 2 diabetes and too much sleep due to a disruption in blood sugar levels.
Having an irregular sleeping pattern can also affect your metabolism and mood. You should aim to stick to a regular sleep schedule whenever possible. Good sleep hygiene is important, too. This means not eating right before bed and reducing your use of screens before bedtime. You should try to reserve your bed space for sleeping and resting only, and avoid using it for gaming, working or watching TV. These engaging activities can cause your brain to think that your bed is a space for being awake.
5. Feeding Your Caffeine Addiction
An occasional cup of coffee can be beneficial for your health, but an addiction to caffeine is a whole other story. Too much caffeine can affect your regular sleeping patterns and can lead to high levels of stress. Try to avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon, and be aware of products other than coffee that may contain caffeine. These include some teas, sodas and energy drinks.
4. Ignoring Your Nutrition
If you aren't supplying your body with the right amount of vitamins and nutrients, you’re putting yourself at risk for developing a wide variety of health conditions. Try to include vitamin-rich foods in every meal, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Pay attention to nutrition labels, too, as these usually declare what sort of nutritional content each product has.
3. Spending Too Much Time in Front of the TV
Spending too much time in front of the TV can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Pair that with the habit of eating in front of the TV, and you've got yourself a double dose of unhelpful habits. If you need your TV time, try doing something productive while you watch, such as running on the treadmill. Try to limit your TV time and resist the temptation to spend hours watching shows. When you are watching TV, make it a rule to get up and move around every so often to get your blood pumping and increase your daily exercise.
2. Going Overboard With Alcohol
Alcohol is something that's meant to be consumed in moderation, not every time you have a bad (or good) day at the office. Many people tend to overlook the dangers of alcoholism and excessive drinking. Some of the potential health risks of excessive drinking include liver disease, depression, anxiety, dementia, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
In addition, the calories in alcohol are not insignificant, with a typical 12-ounce beer containing 150 calories. Sugary, liquor-based drinks may contain even more. In addition, people often consume unhealthy snacks while they’re drinking alcohol, which means you may be less aware of your food intake if you’re under the influence.
The worst of all these unhealthy habits on this list is smoking. Not only is smoking one of the leading causes of death, but it can also lead to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, bronchitis, infertility and many other different cancers. If you do smoke, try to cut down or stop. Try to replace the habit with something healthier. There’s plenty of support to stop smoking, and it’s important to turn to these resources if you need help. These include your own doctor, support groups, nicotine-replacement therapies and medications.
The Bottom Line on Unhealthy Habits
All of these unhealthy habits are interconnected, which is why it’s so essential to break them. Not getting enough sleep creates a dependency on caffeine to help you function throughout the day. This leads to a caffeine addiction that can interrupt your sleep. Spending too much time in front of the TV leads to spending less time exercising, and if you enjoy eating in front of the TV, more TV time means more eating.
By breaking these unhealthy habits, you’re not only improving your health in the short term. You’re also setting yourself up for long-term success with maintaining lifestyle changes that benefit you.
Medical content reviewed by Dr Samantha Miller, MBChB