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5 “Healthy” Habits That Can Backfire

Hosts of the hit TV show, "The Doctors," explain why these so-called healthy habits are actually setting you back.


Squatting over a public toilet

You think this keeps your behind free from bacteria lurking on the bowl, but lately urology experts have been saying that squatting could lead to a urinary tract infection. Hovering above the toilet contracts pelvic muscles, which can prevent your bladder from completely emptying and allow bacteria to grow. If you’re really freaked about germs, cover the seat with toilet paper instead. And here are more natural remedies to relieve urinary tract infections.


An early bedtime

We were surprised when sleep medicine specialist Michael Breus, PhD, told us that the majority of people with insomnia go to bed too soon. It sounds counterintuitive, but staying up later signals to your body’s homeostatic system that you need more sleep, so when you do finally go to bed, you’ll conk out sooner. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, here’s how to find your ideal bedtime: Start with what time you need to wake up, then count backward seven and a half hours. If after one week you can wake without an alarm, you have found your sleep need. And don’t miss this surprising advice from sleep doctors on how to beat insomnia.


Relying on to-do lists

Yes, lists and apps help keep you organized, but jotting down every errand can weaken your memory, Chester Santos, a past winner of the USA Memory Championship, told us. The “use it or lose it” principle applies just as much to your brain’s memory center as it does to muscles in the body, he notes. To flex your memory, Santos suggests a technique that involves storytelling to animate your lists. For example, if the first three things on your grocery list are milk, eggs, and bread, try this: Imagine a gigantic carton of milk, dancing and jumping around. Then it suddenly explodes, and eggs come popping out of the milk carton. Then the eggs start dancing and tapping and begin to crack open; out of the eggs comes a loaf of bread. You can keep adding items to this list and successfully recall all of them by replaying the story in your mind.


Daily workouts

We applaud your efforts to hit the gym. But if you don’t take a break from the same daily exercise regimen, you could be at risk of experiencing an overuse injury, like tendinitis or a rotator cuff tear. You don’t need to be a fitness newbie: Our colleague Keri Peterson, a New York City internist who’s been a regular exerciser for years, got tendinitis in her shoulder from using the elliptical machine every day for a few months. She recommends that patients never repeat the same routine two days in a row. So if you jog on the treadmill today, do yoga or strength training tomorrow.


Researching health info on Wikipedia

The crowd-sourced encyclopedia is so popular that even up to 70 percent of physicians admit to using it as a reference. But when researchers recently compared Wikipedia entries with peer-reviewed medical-journal articles on such conditions as back pain, diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure, they found multiple errors for nine out of ten health conditions they studied. Use any health info you research online as a conversation starter with your doc — not as the final answer.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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