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Small Habits That Are Secretly Way Worse for You Than You Thought

Here are 5 mindless ways you're putting your body at risk and didn't even know it.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel
taking cold shower

Bad habits may be hard to break, but they're likely even harder to break if you didn't even know that their bad habits to begin with. Do you love taking a long, hot shower every day? Or exercising with the same-old dirty pair of earbuds? Or do you abide by the old "five-second rule" in the kitchen? If you answer yes to any of those, read on, because here are just a few bad habits you're doing that you likely didn't realize were all that bad, according to the latest science. And for more great advice for living a smarter and healthier life, don't miss the One Surprising Exercise Trick for Losing Belly Fat After 50, Says New Study.

1

You're Taking Long Naps

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The European Society of Cardiology recently analyzed over 20 prior relevant studies encompassing more than 300,000 people and found that naps lasting over an hour are linked to a 30% higher risk of all-cause death and 34% higher chance of cardiovascular disease in comparison to people who don't nap at all.

However, that same study also reported a short 30-45 minute nap can be beneficial to heart health, especially if one isn't getting enough sleep at night (who is these days?). So, if you're a daily napper do your best to limit those daytime respites to less than a full hour. And for more tips for napping, don't miss The #1 Way You're Napping All Wrong, Say Sleep Doctors.

2

You're Using Dirty Earbuds

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Our favorite tunes make exercise easier, long commutes faster, and any chore just a little more bearable. The same goes for podcasts. An audio addiction is about as healthy a habit as they come, but don't forget to clean your earbuds. According to the Whittier Hospital Medical Center, an unkempt pair of earbuds is almost guaranteed to be hosting a smorgasbord of dirt and bacteria. When all of those entities make contact with the ears it can lead to rashes, infections, and allergic reactions.

We've all become more familiar with keeping various surfaces and objects clean in the wake of COVID-19. Taking a few seconds to wipe down your earbuds with a cleaning solution or a damp cloth can go a long way toward sparing yourself ear problems.

3

You're Taking Long Showers

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Hopping into a nice warm shower can be very relaxing, but spending too much time under the water every day is going to end up doing more harm than good for your skin. Nobody wants to smell, but, at the same time, it isn't healthy to totally strip your skin of its essential oils. If you're finding yourself in the shower every day for 20 plus minutes, chances are you can cut that time down a bit to a healthier 5-15 minutes.

"The purpose of showering is to hydrate and cleanse the skin, but warm or hot showering for prolonged periods strips away natural oils of the skin and opens up our pores and allows moisture to escape," board-certified dermatologist Edidiong Kaminska, MD, told Healthline. And for more on proper hygiene, make sure you're aware of the Single Worst Time of Day to Shower, Say Experts.

4

You're Following the "Five-Second" Rule

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It happens to everyone, and most people do it without even thinking about it. The meal or snack you had been dreaming of all day slips out of your hands or off the table and lands on the floor. But, you're still starving. The food is okay to eat as long as you pick it up within about five seconds right? Wrong, according to research published in Applied and Environmental Biology.

Despite the prevalence and popularity of the "five-second rule," researchers from Rutgers University say bacteria can transfer from the floor to food instantly. "The five-second rule is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food," Donald Schaffner, a food scientist at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, told Rutgers Today. "Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously."

To be clear, the longer food stays on the ground the more likely it is that it acquired some "guests," so while the five-second rule isn't completely inaccurate, it also isn't guaranteed to protect you from a potential foodborne illness.

5

You're Slouching

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Slouching isn't really all that big of a deal, especially if you exercise and get up from your desk every now and then, right? Well, wrong. Besides doing a number on your neck and shoulders, habitual slouching is also linked to heartburn, poor digestion, incontinence, and constipation. "Slouching increases abdominal pressure, which puts pressure on the bladder. The position also decreases the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to hold against that pressure," comments Meghan Markowski, a physical therapist at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. And for some handy ways to counter all your sitting, don't miss the 15-Second Exercise Trick That Can Change Your Life.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more
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