If you're anything like me, you're constantly looking for ways to live a healthier life. This can be challenging with so many widespread myths about how the human body works. For instance, back in college, after a night of heavy drinking, my friends and I were certain we could "sweat the alcohol out" and basically undo all of the previous night's boozing. So we'd hit the treadmills at the gym until we were drenched. Little did we know that this wasn't helping at all. (More on that later. Oh, and BTW, we could've also just opted not to drink in the first place.)
Why does the average person unknowingly fall for so many myths about the human body? Well, for starters, why wouldn't we?! We're not scientists or researchers; and all it takes is one seemingly scholarly article to convince us that being able to fold your tongue is a genetic trait (it isn't — it can be learned) or that the healthiest teeth are perfectly white (wrong-o — they're actually more yellowish).
Are any of these bodily myths fooling you? Don't worry — you're not alone; but it's time to get to the bottom of them once and for all.
1Our Hair And Nails Keep Growing After We Die
The thought of a corpse with extra long fingernails and hair is enough to haunt anyone's dreams; but fortunately, this is nothing more than a pesky myth. Once your heart stops beating, oxygen stops traveling to your brain. Because there is no longer a glucose storage to fuel you, your nerve cells start to die in minutes. Fingernails need new cells to be produced in order to grow, which means that growth will stop.
It's a similar story for your hair. Each hair sprouts from a follicle, which houses a group of cells that produce new cells. This is why your hair gets longer — but it is reliant, once again, on oxygen and glucose. After death, the entire process is halted.
2We Need Eight Glasses Of Water A Day To Stay Hydrated
It's no secret that you need to stay hydrated to maintain good health, but the rule stating that eight glasses is the magic number nothing short of a myth. There's no real proof supporting a specific number or one-size-fits-all approach to how much water we need to consume. Many water-related myths have also been debunked, at least for now — like the one claiming drinking extra water keeps your skin young and smooth.
In reality, you consume probably more water than you realize through the foods you eat; and even without them, eight glasses could, in some cases, be too much. While it's nearly impossible to make one rule for about how much water we all need to drink, we do know that we need to take in enough to replace what we lose every day from peeing, sweating, and other bodily functions — something that can differ greatly from person to person.
3We Mostly Use One Side Of Our Brains
This myth is kind of easy to accept, because some of us are more artistic and creative, while others are more analytical and numbers-oriented. It only makes sense that one side of our brain largely dominates, right? That might be the case, but science has debunked this. For example, one study with more than 1,000 participants found that through the entirety of the project, they all used their entire brain equally.
Furthermore, the two hemispheres of our brain are very well-connected. They're joined by something called the corpus callosum, and most of what we do requires both halves of the brain to work together and share information.
4You Lose Most Of Your Body Heat Through Your Head
Back in the 1950s, military researchers would expose their subjects to very cold temperatures. Their bodies were bundled up save for their heads, which ended up being where they lost most of their body heat. Thus, we concluded that we lose most of our heat from our noggins.
In a 2006 study, scientists found that the human head accounts for roughly seven percent of the body's total surface area, and the heat loss it experiences is proportional to just that amount. Yet another 2008 study echoed these findings, concluding that a person loses between seven and 10 percent of their body heat through their head.
5We Have Five Senses
Touch. Taste. Sight. Smell. Hearing. These are the five senses we've learned about since elementary school. However, some scientists list nine or more, and even up to 21 senses! Your sense of touch alone is comprised of several "somatic" senses that cover feelings of pressure, heat, pain, and more.
Some other identified senses are thermoception (the ability to sense heat or cold), proprioception (the ability to tell where your body parts are relative to other parts), and equilibrioception (the sense that helps you keep your balance, control speed, perceive gravity, and notice changes in direction).
6Sitting Too Close To The TV Is Bad For Your Eyes
When you were young, did your parents ever tell you not to sit so close to the TV set? Rest assured, 'rents, that this is one big, fat myth — and even the American Academy of Ophthalmology says so. While sitting too close to the screen might cause strain in your eyes, there is no evidence finding that it will damage the eyes of children or adults. There is a reason we did this so often as kids, though: Children focus better at closer distances without eyestrain, compared to adults. For this reason, kids also hold books closer to their faces.
7Shaving Makes Hair Grow Back Darker And Thicker
This myth has made an even bigger comeback since women have revisited the grooming habit of shaving their faces for smoother skin; but it was a persistent myth even before that. Rest assured, ladies, that research as far back as the 1920s has proven this one false. Shaving has no effect on hair growth or texture. Hair is dead, and shaving can't affect the live part, which is the follicle.
The reason hair looks thicker is because when you shave, it grows back with a blunt angle — as opposed to when it grows out naturally and has a tapered point. Then, hair ends up looking darker because the blunt end is much more noticeable than a tapered one.
The thickness of your hair is determined by the size of the follicles, plain and simple. Shaving won't change that. (Obviously, it does lead to stubble; so that's something to be aware of.)
8You Can Sweat Out Toxins
Nothing feels better than a killer sweat sesh; and while you're doing your body good, I'm sorry to say that you're not releasing toxins. Sweating has one purpose: to cool the body down and regulate your internal temperature. While you are releasing a very tiny amount of protein, carbs, and salts, 99 percent of your sweat is water. How do you rid your body of toxins, then?
That's what the kidneys and liver are for. They're the ones to detoxify your body, which happens when you use the bathroom.
9You Catch A Cold From The Cold
Despite popular belief, cold weather does not cause colds. In fact, some research has found the exact opposite: that cold weather activates the immune system! Regardless, science pretty much agrees that colds are caused by viruses that enter through your mouth, eyes, or nose. It can happen through droplets in the air when another sick person sneezes or coughs, or when you make skin-to-skin contact with someone who is sick (or touch something they've used).
10We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains
This myth is exciting to believe because it means we haven't unlocked the majority of our knowledge and brain power; unfortunately, it is just that: a myth. For starters, the brain (like all organs) has been constructed by natural selection, meaning there's no way evolution would've allowed such a large portion of it to go to waste. Secondly, one can consider people who have suffered unfortunate accidents and lose part of their brain — a 90 percent loss would be absolutely devastating.
If you're still sure that you're only using 10 percent of your brain, don't forget about all the research done using brain imaging technology, finding that the majority of our brains is getting plenty of activity. No large sections lay dormant.