7 Surprising Health Habits That Drain Energy
That Ginormous Gym Bag
All the stuff you might need adds up: running sneakers, Spinning shoes, boxing gloves (who knows what you'll be in the mood for?), dry shampoo and facial wipes for post-workout happy hour. But a too-big bag can throw off alignment and posture, which, studies show, makes it hard to draw full breaths. That increases your heart rate and makes you feel that you need a nap ASAP.
Power Up: Swap your trusty duffel or tote for a backpack, such as the expandable Asics Ultimate Stash ($70, asics.com) or the superlight silver-and-coral Roxy Game Ready ($44, roxy.com). "Instead of putting a lot of weight on one shoulder, a backpack evenly distributes the load," says Karen Jacobs, an ergonomist and a professor in the department of occupational therapy at Boston University. Styles with chest and hip straps are best for relieving strain. Adjust the pack so that it sits just above your bum, and place the heaviest items closest to your back. Plan workouts for the week so you're carrying only what you need each day, and wait until you hit the gym to fill your water bottle.Your Habit of Reading Nutrition Labels
When you're trying to eat well, the options at the grocery store can make your head spin. Say you're shopping for milk. Soy, hemp, rice, oat, or coconut? Or maybe you need nut butter. Peanut, cashew, flaxseed, or almond? A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that having too many options can be exhausting, making the supermarket -- the average store carries more than 38,000 items -- the place where your internal battery goes to die. "With thousands of products competing for our attention, it can be exhausting to make healthy choices," says Adiana Castro, RD, a co-owner of Compass Nutrition in New York City. And shelves littered with potentially misleading label claims -- "No trans fat," "All natural" -- just compound the confusion.
Power Up: "Focus on nutrient-rich whole foods, so it's easier to manage choices," Castro says. Make a detailed list, including preferred brands, before you shop to help you zero in on what you need. When you're stumped, try an app like Fooducate (free, iPhone and Android). A grading system makes picking the healthiest options as easy as scanning bar codes.What You Do Between the Sheets
No, we're not talking about sexy time. A recent study found that 72 percent of participants spend their time before falling asleep in bed on social networks, and 65 percent say the last thing they do before closing their eyes is check for texts. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95 percent of Americans use a computer or other electronic device within an hour of trying to drift off. Problem is, the bright light from some gadgets may stimulate brain activity and reduce melatonin levels, which may make it difficult to both fall asleep and perk up the next day, says Mariana G. Figueiro, PhD, an associate professor at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Power Up: Make your bed a no-gadget zone. Charge your phone in the living room so you won't be tempted to check for texts or hop on Twitter, and use an old-school alarm clock (one that lights up only when prompted); a blue LED display may be nearly as detrimental as your phone. If you have to use your laptop or phone at night, make it more sleep friendly. Lowbluelights.com has blue-blocking iPhone screen filters starting at $13, and the NeyetLight app (99 cents) automatically adjusts light levels on Android devices as darkness falls; justgetflux.com offers a free download that does the same for your computer.Your Water-Chugging Ways
A small study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that being slightly dehydrated -- even just 1 percent below your optimal fluid level -- resulted in noticeable fatigue.
Power Up: Drink at least half your body weight in ounces every day (that's 65 ounces for a 130-pound woman), more if you feel sluggish. Tie your sips to something that happens often, such as when someone says your name (yes, "Babe" and "Mommy" count) or an e-mail pops into your in-box. Tired of ho-hum H2O? "Freeze creative combinations of chopped herbs and diced fruit into ice-cube trays. Try blackberry and mint, peach and cinnamon, or strawberry and rosemary," Castro suggests.
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