7 Basic Things You Won't Believe You're All Doing Wrong

#3. Having Babies

Obviously, giving birth to a smaller human might take a lot more effort than breathing. But when you realize that even the idiot deer that tried to jump in front of your car last month has probably managed to produce young, you would hope that we smart modern humans are getting it really right. Not so. Today, the majority of women in America are still directed to give birth in the "lithotomy" position, an odd pose that consists of lying flat on your back with your feet and legs raised, sometimes in stirrups.

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Stirrups? This woman has clearly just given birth to this horse.

In fact, short of actually duct-taping your legs together, this is pretty much the worst position imaginable to give birth in. And that's not the opinion of a bunch of hippies who think that childbirth should involve dolphins and mood lighting: The World Health Organization has called use of the lithotomy position "clearly harmful," and recommended that it be eliminated.

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Or monetized for the S&M industry.

And when you think about it, it's not hard to see their point: With the woman on her back, the baby is actually fighting gravity on its way into the world, and rest assured, that baby is in no hurry whatsoever to escape a world in which breathing and eating are already taken care of. The result: a more difficult labor and an increased rate of severe vaginal tearing.

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The whole right side of this picture looks like the end of 300.

And as if that image was not utterly horrifying enough, directed pushing (those people who stand around the mother yelling "Push!") has been shown to increase perineal damage and childbirth pain while also decreasing the amount of oxygen that gets to the fetus.

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

Basically, the head-down, legs-in-the-air position has become standard in modern medicine mainly because it gives doctors direct and unrestricted access to your hoo-hoo. The thing is, having babies is a lot like making babies -- there's no one position that suits every situation. The World Health Organization recommends giving women the opportunity to move around during labor and change their position according to what feels right.

iStockphoto
The "champagne cork" position.

But science can tell us that non-lying-down positions reduce tearing and that a squatting labor position usually opens up the pelvis by 10 percent. And as anyone who has ever got their head stuck in a drainpipe knows, a 10 percent increase in space can sometimes mean a lot. Basically, squatting should be given some sort of medal at this point.

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Knight Commander of the OB-GYN.

#2. Tooth Brushing

Bad breath is a great way to lose new friends. Nobody wants to talk to or sit next to someone whose breath is outlawed by the terms of the Geneva Conventions. So thank goodness we learned to brush our teeth so much.

Well, actually, our obsessive-compulsive tooth-brushing practices lead to deteriorating oral health, including increased numbers of cavities and eventual tooth loss. Traditional wisdom, as dictated to us from a young age by school-visiting dentists with happy, anthropomorphic teeth printed on their shirts, is that we should brush twice a day, after meals. That makes sense, because you're getting rid of all those hamburger particles wedged between your teeth before they can start rotting and convert your breath into a chemical weapon.

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"Oh, stop being dramatic, Carl. Carl?"

But surprise -- you're wrong. British dentists are now recommending that people, especially small people between the ages of five and 10, not brush their teeth after every meal. The reason is that the acidity in food and beverages causes tooth enamel to soften, and brushing right after eating an acidic meal strips enamel from the teeth, leaving them vulnerable to cavities. Leaving a little food behind actually doesn't cause as much damage as your toothbrush does as it scrubs the natural protective layer off the teeth. Up yours, dentists.

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So how the hell are we meant to do it?

Studies show that flossing is much more important than brushing. Dental floss actually removes the bacteria that clump together between your teeth, without scrubbing and stripping layers off them.

But before you run to your dentist and smugly assert that Cracked told you that brushing is bad for you, brushing twice a day is generally still believed to be the best practice. But you should do it away from mealtimes to give your teeth time to recover from acid wear -- ideally, right before you eat or drink anything. And although you might instinctively prefer a hard toothbrush to really grind off those asshole bacteria, studies suggest you should use a soft brush and focus on your gums more than your actual teeth. So it's really more of a tooth massage.

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And no massage is complete without a happy-ending mouthwash.

#1. Sitting

We've mentioned before that long periods of sitting increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and even frickin' cancer, no matter how much you work out when you're not sitting. We also mentioned that for some bizarre reason, sitting down for long periods of time means that you'll probably die earlier. What we didn't mention is that this is all because of the invention of chairs.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Thanks, Egypt.

The straight-backed chairs we're familiar with today have been around for thousands of years, but until recently, they were almost exclusively for really important people. We've still got words like "chairman" and "university chair" that show the connection between a thronelike chair and leadership. As recently as the 19th century, the default mode for the average person was a backless stool or a bench, or just plain old kneeling.

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Or the stocks.

And you guessed it -- our bodies aren't designed for the right-angled back support presented by the average chair. When we're standing up, or even sitting on something backless, our abdominal muscles are active, helping our spines support our weight. When you're sitting on a chair, these muscles relax, and suddenly your spine alone has to take the entire weight of your upper torso, like a twig holding up a bowling ball. The extra stress puts pressure on your spinal disks and can eventually lead to chronic back pain, something that's experienced by 80 percent of Americans.

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So how the hell are we meant to do it?

Some experts on sitting recommend "active sitting" (which sounds about as relaxing as sleepercising) using an exercise ball, kneeling stool or something else without a high back. There are also standing desks. But if you don't want to look like a cubicle worker whose office manager reads too many furniture design magazines, there's another option: A study used an MRI to measure the spinal disk movement of three groups of people: one sitting, one slouching and one lying back at a 135-degree angle with their feet on the floor. The last group showed the least disk movement. By the way, this reclining position was common during the Roman Empire, including in Jesus' time. So try it at work, and tell your boss you're avoiding future sick days and deepening your religious experience.


"I bet Jesus would take off with the company credit card too!"

Crystal Beran lives on the Internet at crystalberan.com, where she writes for money, kicks and gifts of food.

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