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1. Drop the afternoon coffee
That 3 p.m. cup of dark roast may be just the thing to rev you up for the rest of your day, but it's not doing you any favours as evening approaches. Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit found that caffeine can affect the quantity and quality of sleep, even when consumed six hours prior to bedtime, potentially knocking an hour or more off your nighttime sleep.
2. Uncross your legs
Sitting with one thigh over the other is an unconscious habit for many of us. The problem is, when you cross your legs, you torque your hips and rotate your pelvis, putting pressure on your spine. Long term, that can lead to neck and back pain. Worse, habitual leg crossing has been linked to raised blood pressure and herniated discs. Once you've kicked the crossing habit, aim to keep your knees and ankles at 90-degree angles.
3. Skip diet soda
The label may say "zero-calorie," but that daily can of pop can cause you to gain weight. Research has linked diet sodas not only to increased belly fat but also to a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome, which includes risk factors such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and high triglycerides—all precursors to heart disease and diabetes. Ditching diet soda is also good for your bones: A 2014 study found that increased consumption of diet soda is associated with increased risk of bone fractures in postmenopausal women.
4. Unplug for at least one hour per day
Boosting your physical and mental health can be as easy as scheduling unplugged time every day. In fact, tuning out of your devices and tuning into nature has been linked to higher levels of cancer-fighting proteins and a reduction in the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
5. Walk once an hour
You may have heard the expression "sitting is the new smoking." Prolonged sitting and inactivity can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health hazards. A two-minute stroll once an hour around the office, your home or your backyard can help offset those ill effects and lower your risk of premature death by 33 percent.
6. Wear sunscreen year-round
Most of us don't need a reminder to slather on the high-SPF stuff in summer—but we really should be doing it year-round. That's because unprotected exposure, even on cold or cloudy days, increases your chances of skin cancer, which accounts for one in three cancers diagnosed worldwide. Plus, sunscreen is one of the best anti-aging products out there; a 2013 Australian study found a significant delay in skin aging as a result of daily sunscreen use. For everyday protection, use SPF 15 or higher.
7. Stop mindless late-night snacking
The odd night of munching buttery popcorn and watching movies is harmless fun, but routine late-night snacking can take a toll on your waistline, generally because our impulsive snack choices tend to be high-calorie, low-nutrient foods such as cookies and chips. You don't have to ignore nighttime hunger, just choose wisely: a banana or whole-grain toast with peanut butter will satisfy you without lots of extra calories.
8. Stand (and sit) up straight
Mom was right: Good posture is important. When you sit or stand with your body in proper alignment—ears, shoulders and hips all lined up—muscles, joints and ligaments work as they should and your body is properly supported. Poor posture, on the other hand, puts stress on your muscles, bones and ligaments, and can lead to neck and back pain as well as problems with digestion and breathing.
9. Make sleep a priority
We've all heard that most of us don't get enough sleep, but why is that such a big deal? Research has found that sleep is a key component in overall health, helping us ward off high blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, think more clearly, be in good humour and more. While the occasional sleepless night is not a concern, if you have ongoing insomnia, see your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions, and to get advice on falling—and staying—asleep.
10. Wean yourself off worrying
A little worrying can be a great motivator, but too much and too often can harm your physical and mental health. Chronic worriers tend to suffer more from irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue and depression. To get worrying under wraps, experts advise listing them and determining whether each one is productive ("I'm overdue for a dentist appointment") or nonproductive ("What if my new coworker doesn't like me?"). Once you figure out which worries you can act on, it's time to lose the nonproductive ones.
For more way to enhance your health, check out these small changes to boost your overall health.