5. The Habit: Sitting All Day
Bad news for all of us with a desk job—it’s bad for your health… and not just because of the giant candy bowl. Sitting around all day may feel nice, but most of us don’t maintain proper posture while sitting in front of a computer all day, causing back muscles to weaken because of inactivity. Sitting also puts 40 percent more pressure on your spine than standing does.
The Fix: See whether your office would get you a standing desk—they help you keep your core and back muscles engaged all day. If that’s not an option, lean back throughout the day so you’re sitting at a 135-degree angle—it reduces compression of the discs in the spine. Finally, make sure your head is straight, not straining forward, when using the computer. (See: 10 Exercises for Better Posture)
6. The Habit: Stressing Out
When you’re stressed out, your whole body is too—including the muscles in your neck and back, which contract and clench up. And if you keep stressing, those tight muscles don’t get a chance to relax, causing pain.
7. The Habit: Skipping Workouts
Exercise builds muscle tone that’s essential for supporting your back. When you don’t get enough of it, you experience stiffness and weakened muscles, and spinal discs become degenerated.
The Fix: Workouts that strengthen the back and abdomen are your best best—try pairing light cardio with Pilates or strength training. (See: 5 Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain)
8. The Habit: Eating Too Much Junk Food
Not surprisingly, an excess of high-calorie, low-nutrient food leads to weight gain. And that weight gain can put a load on your back too—excess weight around the midsection causes the pelvis to pull forward, creating stress for the lower back. Overweight people are also at an increased risk of osteoarthritis.
The Fix: The good news? Dropping even five to ten percent of your body weight can greatly improve your health. Start with small healthy habits that’ll stick—swap three big meals a day for four to five smaller ones, switch from butter to a healthier alternative (like coconut oil), and drinking green tea.