26 Healthy Habits: Part Two – Health and Hygiene

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The first part of this article review was on food and drink – what’s really healthy and what is marketed to be healthy.  Learning how to read labels and increasing your knowledge helps you be a savvy consumer.  Still, there’s so much information out there which makes it really difficult to know – who is right? Remember to always look at the source of information – who is putting it out, who is paying the bill and what is their motive.

Now, let’s review some health and hygiene habits.  Let’s start with the truth about hot tubs!

Hot tubs – Movies glamorize them and they are used on television as a way to steam up an evening with a romantic outdoor scene, but what’s really in those tubs?  Is it romance they’re boiling up or just a sexy way to catch something horrible?  If you’re thinking – I use my hot tub to relax, or I look forward to using the hot tub to reduce my stress while at the hotel when I visit. You might want to think again. Hot tubs are the breeding grounds for bacteria, germs, and sometimes too many chemicals can give you a nice rash.  Take a hot shower instead!   Hot tubs are hard to clean thoroughly, and who knows who’s been in it last and what they brought into that tub to breed!

Antibacterial soap – It is false to think that if you don’t buy the expensive brand, there is no protection against germs.  Regular soap and water with proper hand washing for 15 seconds or more, getting under the fingernails and all surfaces of the hands, can be just as good as using a fancy antibacterial soap.  If using the stuff that looks and smells pretty encourages you or others to wash your hands more, that is quite all right. The price doesn’t necessarily guarantee cleanliness!

Brushing immediately after eating – It’s really OK to wait a bit, at least 30 minutes, so that your saliva can neutralize the acid in your mouth.  It’s also about how you brush and floss that is most important.  Using a soft toothbrush reduces the scratching to the gums that often occurs with frequent brushing. You’re just trying to get the bacteria off and stimulate the blood flow not remove a layer of skin when you brush.  You also need to do all surfaces of the teeth, the fronts, the bottoms and inside, doing about 30 seconds a sector.  Right side outside, bottoms and inside on the top.  Then move on in the four quadrants of your mouth.  Flossing removes food from between your teeth that simple brushing leaves behind.  If you cannot brush, flossing and rinsing are better than nothing.  And don’t forget to brush your tongue! Lots of smelly bacteria can build up on your tongue causing bad breath despite having clean teeth!

Avoiding the sun – While too much sun can cause sun damage, not enough sun can cause a lack of vitamin D.  Without vitamin D, our bodies do not intake and use calcium as they should.  So if you have osteoporosis or have osteopenia, the lack of sun may not be good for you either.  There are also people with seasonal affective disorder where the lack of light causes depression and other symptoms which decrease life satisfaction.  Enjoy the sunshine, but wear your sunscreen.  It’s also been proven that the high SPFs that you pay big bucks for are no more effective than ones with less advertised protection.  More frequent application of sunscreen is more effective than using an SPF 100.  It is just a marketing ploy to get you to spend more money, without more real protection.

Daily showers – Being clean and scrubbing down the skin daily with harsh soaps can dry out the skin.  If you shower daily, make sure you don’t dry off completely before you put on moisturizer.  This keeps the skin hydrated.   You can also freshen up between showers with baby wipes, or a birdbath in the sink touching up sweaty areas, but not drying out the entire body.  The natural oils on our skin and hair protect our bodies; too much stripping of either can leave them dry and dull.  Dry skin is more prone to crack and be an entry-way for infection as well.

Catching up on sleep – Once you’ve lost it, you cannot really make it up. It’s very true to try to get at least seven hours a sleep a night, eight to nine is even better!  Our bodies and our minds need to rest…lack of sleep ages you and decrease your alertness.  Often times this leads to pick me ups with high calorie snacks or drinks for that sugar high, when in reality, a little more sleep each night would make you feel much more rested!  Don’t get me wrong, a great nap once in a while does your body good too!

Sitting up straight – Sitting is hard on the body whether you sit up straight or not.  Try standing up straight, head over the body, shoulders back and lifting yourself from the crown of your head.  So much of life is forward – eating, driving, work at a computer or phone station, reading, iPad or texting…we all need to stand more and extend our bodies more.  Even lying flat is better than sitting because our bodies are extended.  If you need to sit for work, try a ball chair; they force you to sit up taller and engage your core.  You’re reminded not to slump just by sitting on that chair! Physioballs at home in front of the TV or video games is also a great way to work on correct posture…you slump and you may fall off!

Cleaning and disinfecting products – Harsh products can cause asthma. Some evidence shows that chemicals can lead to asthma or other respiratory issues, so using good old fashioned elbow grease and a less harsh environmentally-friendly product is better than a powerful chemical.  If you need to use strong chemicals, proper ventilation or protective wear should be used to protect not only your airway, but your eyes and your skin.  With anything, repeated exposure or misuse of chemicals will cause you harm!  Just like I say with lifting – work smart not hard – use your legs or in this case, use your head!

About Janelle Baldwin

Janelle Baldwin is a physical therapist assistant (PTA) and lead fitness trainer for Agnesian HealthCare’s on-site fitness center, called the ZONE. She is a certified weight trainer (CWT), a strength and conditioning specialist (STS) and a certified strength and conditioning instructor (CSCI). Her 15 years of professional experience ranges from home care and work hardening/conditioning with the Agnesian HealthCare Sports, Spine & Work Center for many years to her role as a certified personal trainer; teaching fitness classes for which she is trained and certified for and maintaining the on-site fitness facility.

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