4 common wellness myths you shouldn’t believe
In our quest to be healthy, many of us have fallen for untruths or half-truths regarding the best way to reach wellness. John Manna, FNP, busted some common wellness myths to get us on the right track to better health.
Myth #1: Being skinny means you’re healthy
“Healthy is a broad term, so it really depends on what your definition of health is,” Manna said. “When I’m looking at what impacts your health, I’m looking at your exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress, whether you’re using risky substances such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. And then are you connected socially to people at work or people at home? I’m looking at all those realms, and you’ll see that being skinny, despite being one of the most common wellness myths, doesn’t necessarily fit. Yes, you can be skinny and be healthy, but you can also be skinny and be unhealthy as well.”
Why? You can be skinny and have visceral fat, which is fat inside of the body that you cannot see – a risk factor for chronic disease. If you’re eating a poor diet with plenty of processed foods or if you smoke tobacco, your risk for health problems increases even if you’re thin.
“Now, if you’re skinny because you’re exercising regularly, eating well, sleeping well, reducing your stress, then yes, you would be healthy,” said Manna. “But weight is just one piece of the puzzle. Improving health doesn’t always equal losing weight.”
Talk to your provider about which lifestyle goals you can focus on to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Myth #2: You can catch up on your sleep
Many people think they can sleep five hours a night during the workweek and “catch up” by getting 10 hours of sleep on the weekend. Not true.
Ideally, sleep should happen regularly at the same time every night. The average adult needs about seven to eight hours of sleep. It’s best to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, whether it’s a weekday or a weekend.
“I think a lot of people discount how important sleep is to their overall health,” Manna said. “Many studies have shown a direct link between lack of sleep and acquiring chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Sleep is essential! And that is why it’s important every day that we try to get the same amount of sleep.”
It’s okay to have a late night and sleep in every now and then, but you’re not “catching up” on your sleep. If you’re having issues with sleep, please reach out to your doctor.
Myth #3: It’s normal to be less active as you age
It’s normal for your performance level to decline, but not your activity level. For instance, it’s expected that you can run faster in your 20s than you can in your 60s. But the amount of exercise you’re getting does not have to decline as you age.
In fact, Manna warns against becoming more sedentary as you get older. “I don’t suggest that you sit down all day. For most adults, we recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. Take a walk for 30 minutes a day. It can be in the morning, during a lunch break or in the evening with family after dinner.”
This is especially important as you age because if you become more sedentary, your muscles can begin to atrophy or become smaller and not as strong, making it more difficult to regain that activity level.
“Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death in the world, which I think is something that is often overlooked,” Manna said. Physical inactivity leads to so many other issues and it’s one of the biggest causes of chronic conditions.”
If you’re struggling to be active, talk to your provider. Some small changes can make a big difference.
“I tell people who are older and working jobs to avoid sitting at a desk all day. Get a standing desk or walk around every so often. Those things are important because once we stop the physical activity, it’s really hard to get it back, not just mentally but physically, and then your chronic conditions can progress pretty rapidly.”
Myth #4: Taking vitamin C prevents a cold
Vitamin C itself does not prevent a cold. However, some studies show that taking vitamin C regularly can decrease the duration of symptoms by about 10%. The average cold is about five to 10 days, which means it can reduce your symptoms by about a half a day to a day.
If you only take vitamin C when you have a cold, it’s not going to make the cold go away or prevent you from getting worse.
“This is one of the most common wellness myths there is, and there’s been a lot of research into whether or not it’s true. There are some interesting studies that show things like garlic, kiwi and even nutritional yeast can actually prevent common colds, but you have to eat a pretty high amount,” Manna said. “Usually, what I tell patients to do is just, overall, have a healthy diet eating plenty of antioxidants, which you’re going to find in fruits and vegetables. That’s your best way to keep your immune system functioning well, reduce your risk of colds and recover as quickly as possible.”
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