Some of the things you do--or don't do--every day might be sabotaging your efforts to be healthier. As you read the list of daily habits, don't be too hard on yourself and expect that you'll change all of these at once. The key to success is to slowly integrate change into your life. And if you fall off the wagon occasionally, don't fret; it's more important that you get back on.
1: Not drinking enough water
So, how much water should you be drinking? The Institute of Medicine says adult men need about 13 cups per day of fluid; adult women need about nine. (You get about an additional 2-1/2 cups of fluid from foods.) But because one size doesn't fit all, the best way to know if you're adequately hydrated is to monitor your urine color: If it's light yellow (the color of lemonade), that means you're drinking enough.
2: Eating late at night
There are a couple of reasons why you should think about moving your dinner hour earlier: A recent study in Cell Metabolism found that mice who ate an early dinner and then fasted for 16 hours were slimmer than those who ate the same amount of calories but snacked around the clock. In fact, even the mice fed a high-fat diet gained less weight when they fasted.
Researchers suspect that the longer lapse between meals allows the body to process the food more efficiently. Another reason is that you may sleep better: according to the National Institutes of Health, late-night meals can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep.
3: Not getting enough exercise
If in a previous phase of your life you were an exerciser, you're familiar with the positive impact physical activity has on you: Not only does it keep you looking and feeling great, but exercising regularly can help you lose weight and boost your energy.
Exercising regularly also has bigger benefits. It may help you live longer! According to the Framingham Heart Study, people with moderate or high levels of activity may live longer; study participants with that activity level lived 1.3 to 3.7 years longer.
Additionally, exercise keeps your heart healthy; lowers your risk of some types of chronic disease, such as breast cancer and some aggressive forms of prostate cancer; improves blood flow to your brain, keeping you sharp; and helps with blood sugar control.
The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, each week, plus 2 or more days of muscle-strengthening activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (e.g., running) and 2 or more days of resistance training.
4: Skimping on sleep
You know that falling short on sleep is a major no-no, but why--what's the big deal? Research shows that not getting enough shut-eye can impact a whole slew of things: It can compromise your immune system, your judgment and ability to make decisions (you are also more likely to make mistakes) and your heart health.
Being sleep-deprived may fuel depression and make it harder for you to lose weight if you're dieting--and more likely that you'll give in to that sweet temptation tomorrow. Aim to get around 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, although there's no magic number, says the National Sleep Foundation, so listen to your body and try to get the amount of sleep that your body needs to function at its best.
5: Eating too much sodium
Americans, on average, eat about 1,000 mg more sodium each day than we should. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, if we cut that much out of our daily diets, we'd lower our risk of heart disease by up to 9 percent. One of the easiest ways to cut your sodium intake is to cook at home using fresh ingredients.
Restaurant foods and processed foods both tend to be very high in sodium. To trim your sodium intake even further, try boosting the flavor of food cooked at home with herbs and spices rather than salt.
6: Choosing a particular food because of a healthy-sounding claim