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© Dominik Wycisło/Unsplash
© Dominik Wycisło/Unsplash

10 Health and Wellness Facts Everybody Should Know

Picture of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor
Updated: 18 May 2017

From ingrained old wives’ tales and misleading marketing, to scientifically sketchy claims—there’s a lot of questionable information out there when it comes to health and wellness. These fascinating nuggets of knowledge have been investigated for accuracy, and they just might help you live better.

There’s a reason you always have room for dessert…

You sit back from the table, satiated with jeans unbuttoned, declaring you couldn’t possibly eat another bite…until somebody suggests tiramisu. The reason it sometimes feels like you have a second “dessert stomach” is because of a thing called sensory-specific satiety. After eating one type of food your appetite for it decreases, meanwhile your desire for foods with different tastes and textures ramps up. And that, friends, is why the buffet is a disaster for your waistline.

Exercises that “tone” your muscles are a myth…

Even in the #strongnotskinny age, women still worry about looking bulky, which is why workouts like barre and Pilates claim to “tone” your muscles—i.e. make them stronger without making them manly. Here’s the thing though—any time you’re increasing strength you’re also increasing size, so while these workouts won’t build muscle like lifting heavy weights, they are still building muscle. The fastest way to look more toned is to tackle your diet, because less body fat equals more visible muscle definition.

The five second rule is sort of a real thing…

Consuming food retrieved from the floor within five seconds might actually be okay…depending on the surface, that is. Scientists put this widespread theory to the test and found that food dropped on tile or wood was likely to pick up a substantial amount of germs, but food dropped on carpet was actually fine for consumption—albeit a little fluffy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they also discovered gooey or wet foods were more of a bacteria magnet than dry ones.

Eight glasses of water is very much a rough estimate…

While nobody is contesting the absolute importance of water for our health, how much you really need depends on a whole range of factors, including where you live (whether it’s arid or damp) what you’ve eaten (juicy fruit and veg are hydrating too) and how much exercise you’ve done. In other words, it varies from person to person and from day to day. The best way to tell if you’ve had enough is to have a peek at the color of your urine before you flush—if it’s on the dark side have another glass of water. And hate to burst your bubble, but the idea that drinking plenty of water gives you glowing skin has largely been debunked too.

There’s no hope for your hangover…

For as long as humans have been getting tipsy we’ve been desperately seeking a salve for the morning after. Unfortunately scientists say you’re just going to have to ride this one out. Even if you can stomach it, hair of the dog simply prolongs the process and leaves you feeling even worse later on. Hydration, contrary to popular opinion, doesn’t really make a dent either (although interspersing your boozing session with the odd glass of water can help with damage control). Greasy food, coconut water, caffeine—all of these are virtually ineffective. Your best option is to rest, as sleep deprivation makes the pain so much worse, not to mention the shame spiral.

Juice cleanses are not going to “detox” you…

High-sugar, low-protein, extortionately expensive vitamin liquid is essentially what you’re buying when you do a juice cleanse. The truth is, your body already contains a perfectly functional detoxing system, and if it didn’t you’d be very sick or very dead. Or as Morton E. Tavel, MD, puts it: “The basic concept of ‘detoxifying’ is blatantly flawed, because our natural processes, especially liver and kidney function, cleanse our bodies far better than any extrinsic activities or substances could possibly achieve.”

While a week-long juicing program is probably not going to hurt, in the long run you’re better off with homemade smoothies (lots more fiber), and balanced meals.

Gluten doesn’t necessarily deserve its bad reputation…

Celiac disease is a real thing, and so is gluten sensitivity, but it affects far fewer people than the number who claim they experience symptoms from eating bready products. In fact, Time reports 93.3% of Americans are fine with wheat, and doctors believe those people should continue to incorporate whole grain foods into their diet for better heart health. Of course pizza, pastries, cakes and cookies don’t get a green light. Sorry.

A little exercise goes a very long way…

If you’re constantly berating yourself for not managing to average five weekly workouts, fear not. New research shows exercising just twice a week reduces your chance of dying from cardiovascular disease by 41% and cancer by 18%, and those percentages didn’t increase with the incorporation of more sweat sessions. What’s more, another study proved light exercise—getting up for a stroll in the park, for example—bolstered mood and reduced depression more than medium or high intensity workouts.

We don’t only use 10% of our brains…

What an appealing thought—that we could have hitherto inaccessible potential and who knows, maybe even mystical qualities!—but sadly it’s not true. In brain scans scientists report seeing no significantly dormant areas, which makes sense when you think about the devastation damage to large portions of their brain can wreak?

Sadly, working on your “problem areas” won’t help you slim them…

Many of us complain that our fat tends to accumulate in specific areas—the “muffin top” or “saddle bags”, to name a couple of creatively named examples. Unfortunately, no amount of planks or crunches will “blast fat” from your tummy—we all store it in a genetically determined pattern that’s virtually impossible to reprogram. Instead focus on reducing your overall body fat percentage though a combination of diet and exercise, and perhaps put some extra effort into self-appreciation and body-positivity too.