8 Bad Habits That Really Aren't So Bad

You may want to think twice before dropping these habits like, well, a bad habit:

1.  Spreading (okay, sharing) Gossip. Did you hear? A bit of gossip can be good for you-especially if the information is helpful to others and may warn them of someone else's bad behavior. Research from the University of California, Berkeley, also found that sharing such news has an effect on our stress levels. The researchers had 51 participants engage in a game based on generosity. They discovered volunteers' heart rates increased (indicating stress) when they saw another player cheating. However, when the participants were able to warn others of the dishonest player, their heart rates dropped.

2. Procrastinating. Waiting until the 11th hour to complete an assignment (guilty!) or to make a decision signals you may be a procrastinator. But it's not always a bad thing. Experts say that it depends on how you spend your time while you procrastinate. Taking a few minutes to scan your Facebook feed or do a little online shopping can be a mental break that resets your brain to be productive again. What's more, Frank Partnoy, author of Wait, is a proponent of delaying decisions.  He argues that our world moves too fast, and in trying to keep up, we make speedy decisions and needless mistakes.

3. Swearing (sometimes). "Fiddlesticks" is hardly anyone's first choice of words when responding to excruciating pain. But that F-bomb may serve a purpose: reducing the agony. British researchers had volunteers submerge their hands in ice cold water, and asked them to keep them under as long as possible. They then asked the participants to either curse or utter a neutral word. Those who had cursed were able to tolerate the pain better than those who didn't. Interesting to note: the effects seem to be even more pronounced for those who don't curse regularly.

4. Forgetting to apply sunscreen. You slather on sunscreen religiously and have beautiful skin to prove it. But, on occasion, you skip the 'screen before your morning walk. Should you worry? SPF sunscreen does block harmful rays, but it also blocks the body's ability to produce vitamin D that you naturally receive from the sun. Experts say that 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure, three times a week, will supply enough sunshine to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D. However, it is possible to get a significant sunburn in less than 15 minutes. Limit exposure to the sun during peak times, and apply SPF protection after a few minutes of exposure. To reduce cancer risk from the sun, talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplementation instead of relying on sunlight.

5. Drinking too much java. Your wallet may be lighter, but it appears your health won't suffer. The good news keeps coming for coffee: Enjoying a cup of Joe (or two) a day may help protect against Parkinson's disease, type-2 diabetes, and liver cancer. Caffeine also been shown to boost mood and lower risk of depression. And new research is emerging on a possible role in preventing oral cancers. Just watch the cream and sugar-they add fat and calories to the drink, but not much nutritional content. And while one or two cups are fine, excessive caffeine intake my cause anxiety, irritability, and sleeplessness.

6.  Reaching for the bread basket. Thanks to celebrities (Lady GaGa, Gwyneth Paltrow) who've sworn off the high-carb food, many of us are eschewing the doughy baked good, too. While there are valid health reasons why one should avoid wheat products (celiac disease or a gluten intolerance), if you can tolerate the grain, you'll gain heart-health benefits. Researchers from the University of Barcelona found that eating bread on a daily basis improved lipid profiles in 275 elderly volunteers who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease. So, please pass the bread.

7. Drinking beer instead of wine. Cheers! That pint you picked up may promote healthy bones.  That's according to a study at Tufts University. The study analyzed bone mineral density measurements taken at three hip sites and the lumbar spine in 1,182 men, 1,289 post-menopausal women and 248 pre-menopausal women. Hip bone mineral density in men who reported drinking one or two servings of beer a day was much greater compared to non-drinkers. Researchers believe the silicon in beer helped bolster the bone mineral density in study participants.

8. Fidgeting. While drumming your fingers or tapping your toes won't whittle away the last ten pounds, it can help improve your cardiovascular health. Canadian researchers recorded the movements of healthy, but sedentary women and men, during a period of 4 to 7 days. They also determined their VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen a person can take in during exercise). Though none of the participants moved much, the ones that moved the most, and especially those who occasionally moved briskly, had significantly higher cardio-respiratory fitness than those who moved the least. The takeaway: though it doesn't replace planned moderate-vigorous intensity workouts, adding more movement (especially when done briskly) can help improve health.


Dr. Rafael Pajaro reviewed this article.