Health & Wellness Articles

5 Healthy Habits That Are Making You Sick

Too Much of a Good Thing Can Hurt Your Immune System

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You eat right (most of the time), hit the gym regularly and keep a clean house, especially during cold and flu season. So, why are you still getting sick? It turns out that some of the best things we do to stay healthy can expose us to germs when done wrong, too much or, sometimes, just too frequently. To keep your immune system intact, check out the list below.

Catching Up on Sleep
You might have heard that, despite the temptation to sleep in on the weekends, it's best to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Did you know that too much sleep (and too little sleep, of course) can actually hurt your health?

It's clear that a regular sleep schedule--one in which you go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning--is effective in promoting long-term health, and preventing changes in your circadian rhythms, or your body's internal clock, that will cause sleeplessness when you return to your normal schedule.

Here's what happens: You're short on sleep all week, then you crash on the weekend, hoping to make up the lost hours. Instead, you find yourself wide awake at your normal, weekday bedtime. You end up losing the hours you'd gained, and then you go right back to a shorter sleep schedule.

Over time, losing sleep takes a toll on your immune system, which can leave you vulnerable to colds, the flu and worse.

Aerobic exercise kick starts the immune system, and regular sweat sessions can help you avoid picking up minor ailments. However, increasing your activity level quickly or simply working out too much can put you at risk for the same health problems.

The best training regimens make room for activity and recovery, so be sure to schedule regular periods of rest when you work out. Exercising too frequently or too intensely can temporarily decrease immune system function, leaving you vulnerable to illnesses such as viral infections.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 2 1/2 hours of moderate aerobic activity or 1 1/4 hours of strenuous activity a week, along with muscle strengthening exercises twice a week. Check with your doctor if you're thinking of a change in your routine or if you suspect that you might be working too hard when working out.

Cutting Calories
Kudos to those trying to regain a healthy weight by limiting food intake and exercising regularly. However, don't let your zeal for calorie control mean that you don't get needed nutrients. For example, dieting can lead you to skip breakfast, which truly is the most important meal. People who eat breakfast get more nutrients than those who skip it, and those nutrients can lead to a healthier immune system. If you need to cut back on calories, keep your morning meal intact, then space your intake throughout the day.
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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

  • I hate antimicrobial and antibiotic hand gels as they contribute to MRSA and other antibiotic resistance problems but unfortunately where I work (major medical group in Seattle) we are REQUIRED to use them constantly between patients despite the fact that we wash our hands constantly. I really resent this rule and find that I, as a person who is NOT a germaphobe and does NOT use antibiotic products, get sick MUCH LESS than those who do. My coworkers are constantly using the stuff and are constantly catching colds, flu, etc. - 1/19/2015 6:21:36 PM
  • I dunno about antibiotic resistance in general, but I did rather have the impression that the use of triclosan everywhere was breeding bacteria that are resistant to triclosan which makes the product itself less effective. - 11/20/2014 6:20:30 PM
  • These aren't really "healthy" habits. They're misguided efforts to be healthy. - 11/19/2014 3:52:11 PM
  • The exercise recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is a MINIMUM. There is nothing wrong with a couple of hours of exercise most days of the week. - 11/19/2014 2:31:58 PM
  • This is so true about overexercising and restricting too many calories. - 11/19/2014 10:27:48 AM
  • There has been big discussion about the sanitizers. I know for a fact that there are ladies in the bathroom that barely rinse (if they actually do that) their hands on the way out. Sanitizers are a must there. I have never seen a woman stand at the sink for more than a few seconds with soapy hands before they run out.

    A gym should have sanitizer spray at the equipment. No excuses! The seats and handles of machines especially. I'm only a retired CNA but I wouldn't go to the gym that doesn't and you owe it to yourself to keep yourself healthy. There are sanitizers with moisturizers so there are no excuses there. - 11/19/2014 10:08:53 AM

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