Here are 12 health rules that it’s OK — and sometimes even good — to break.
1. Don’t eat food that’s fallen on the floor.
Many bacteria will be found on that food, but most of them are not dangerous, notes Nina Shapiro, MD, director of pediatric otolaryngology at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital.
Still, if food sits on the floor for long enough, larger critters can dig in to it. If it’s been there overnight, don’t eat it!
2. Stay away from people with colds.
Unless you have lung disease or bad asthma, it’s fine to be around people with colds.
“No one should be so health obsessed as to engage in antisocial behavior,” says Norman H. Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.
Still, you don’t want to catch a cold. So be sure to wash your hands afterward with soap and warm water or use a hand sanitizer, because cold germs spread through contact.
3. Get eight hours of sleep a night.
Many people naturally tend toward eight hours. But everyone is different, and data show that people who sleep seven hours a night actually live longer.
Are you well rested the next day, or are you tired? “The key is how you feel,” says Alice D. Domar, PhD.
4. Eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
There’s no study showing that amount is optimal. Studies do show that people who eat more fruits and veggies tend to be healthier. But no one has compared five to seven servings to, for example, three to five.
So do eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. And if having a number of daily servings to shoot for helps you, great. But don’t get too obsessed with that 5-7 number.
5. When it comes to exercise, no pain, no gain.
You need to make an effort. But you don’t need to work out to the point of exhaustion if your goal is a healthier heart.
For instance, if you walk for an hour at a 4-mile pace, you’ll burn about 400 calories. That’s in the same range as running for 30 minutes at a pace of 10 minutes per mile.
Moderate-intensity activity, done regularly, is enough. There is no evidence that additional intensity buys additional heart health, notes Richard Stein, MD, national spokesman for the American Heart Association and professor of medicine and cardiology at NYU School of Medicine.
6. Sterilize baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
The water supply of most U.S. cities is very safe, so it’s no longer necessary to worry about babies contracting illnesses from the water supply.
The only exception is if a family gets its water from a well or other source, says Dennis Woo, MD, a pediatrician at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital.
7. Older children should have a yearly checkup with blood work.
There is no proof that yearly checkups detect unknown illnesses, says Dennis Woo, MD, a pediatrician at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital.
Woo says that unless health issues are involved, children older than 7 should be seen periodically (every two to three years) to watch growth and update immunizations. You may want to discuss the frequency of checkups with your pediatrician.
8. Keep your usual beauty routine when traveling.
It’s OK to pare down to travel light. Here are tips from Arielle Kauvar, MD, founding director of New York Laser & Skin Care:
- Take an all-in-one shampoo-cleanser-conditioner instead of packing shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel.
- Use lotion (or sunscreen) on the body and face.
- Petrolatum products (like Aquaphor or Vaseline) come in small trial-size tubes and can be used as eye cream, hand moisturizer, and lip balm.
9. Never skip workouts.
Being physically active is good for you. But once in awhile, getting extra rest can refresh your mind and body and help prevent exercise burnout, notes Stephen Ball, PhD, associate professor of exercise physiology at the University of Missouri.
So cut yourself some slack — especially if you’re sick or injured — but not too much.
10. Eat as healthfully as possible every day.
It’s OK to occasionally eat high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Just not too often, and not too much.
“I tell people to eat as well as possible during the week, but on Saturdays to eat favorite foods in moderation. This model gives people something to look forward to and seems to help them stick to healthy eating habits,” says Stephen Ball, PhD, associate professor of exercise physiology at the University of Missouri.
Look at the big picture of your eating habits, rather than obsessing about every morsel at every meal.
For instance, a meal that only consists of salad and a slice of whole grain bread may be short on protein. But you can make it up with other meals or snacks, says Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
11. A woman shouldn’t lift weights unless she wants bulky muscles.
Women don’t have enough testosterone or other male androgen hormones needed to really bulk up.
Lifting low to moderate amounts of weight, multiple times, tones muscles but does not oversize them, notes Jonathan Chang, MD, clinical assistant professor of orthopaedics at the University of Southern California.
And weight training can be good for a woman’s bones, helping guard against osteoporosis.
12. Drink eight glasses of water per day.
Staying hydrated is a good idea, but think beyond your water glass. Other liquids count.
So do foods — such as lettuce, melons, and soup — that are full of water, says Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.