16 worst places for your health

Where you put your toothbrush, TV, workout gear, and more can make a huge impact on your health
© Prevention // © Prevention

The unhealthiest places to...

Store owners aren't the only ones concerned with finding the perfect spot in which to situate their stuff. Researchers in a wide variety of fields know that how you organize your environment—from where you stand in fitness class to the place you choose to store your meds—has a surprising effect on everything from your weight to your chances of staying well. In other words, when it comes to how you feel, it's not just what you do, it's where you do it.

Here, surprisingly bad locales for your health—and the best places to optimize it.

-- By Jessie Knadler, Prevention

1 of 18 Organized bathroom (David Papazian/Getty Images)

To keep your toothbrush

There's nothing wrong with the sink itself—but it's awfully chummy with the toilet. There are 3.2 million microbes per square inch in the average toilet bowl, according to germ expert Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona. When you flush, aerosolized toilet funk is propelled as far as 6 feet, settling on the floor, the sink, and your toothbrush.

Best place: "Unless you like rinsing with toilet water, keep your toothbrush behind closed doors—in the medicine cabinet or a nearby cupboard," Gerba says.

Do you find yourself catching colds often? Find out 10 Ways You're Wrecking Your Immune System

2 of 18 A toothbrush on the bathroom sink (Howard Kingsnorth/Getty Images)

To stash sneakers and flip-flops

The worst place: Bedroom closet

Walking through your house in shoes you wear outside is a great way to track in allergens and contaminants. One study found that lawn chemicals were tracked inside the house for a full week after application, concentrated along the traffic route from the entryway. Shoes also carry in pollen and other allergens.

Best place: Reduce exposure by slipping off rough-and-tumble shoes by the door; store them in a basket or under an entryway bench. If your pumps stay off the lawn, they can make the trip to the bedroom—otherwise, carry them.

Looking for a new pair of sneakers? Check out Prevention's picks for the best workout shoes!

3 of 18 Shoes in a closet (Dana Neely/Getty Images)

To fall asleep

The worst place: Under piles of blankets

Being overheated can keep you from nodding off, researchers say: A natural nighttime drop in your core temperature triggers your body to get drowsy. To ease your way to sleep, help your body radiate heat from your hands and feet, says Helen Burgess, PhD, assistant director of the Biological Rhythms Research Laboratory at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Best place: Don socks to dilate the blood vessels in the extremities—then take the socks off and let a foot stick out from under the blankets.

Why are you tired all the time? Find out here.   

4 of 18 Person sleeping under heavy blankets (Tom Merton/Getty Images)

To cool leftovers

The worst place: In the refrigerator

Placing a big pot of hot edibles directly into the fridge is a recipe for uneven cooling and possibly food poisoning, says O. Peter Snyder Jr., PhD, president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, MN. The reason: It can take a long time for the temperature in the middle of a big container to drop, creating a cozy environment for bacteria.

Best place: You can safely leave food to cool on the counter for up to an hour after cooking, Snyder says. Or divvy up hot food into smaller containers and then refrigerate—it'll cool faster.

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5 of 18 Leftovers in the fridge (Steven Puetzer/Getty Images)

To post a workout reminder

The worst place: Stuck on your post-it laden fridge

A visual nudge can help—but only if you notice it, says Paddy Ekkekakis, PhD, an exercise psychologist at Iowa State University. In one study, a sign urging people to use the stairs rather than the nearby escalator increased the number of people who climbed on foot by nearly 200%.

Best place: Put your prompt near a decision point, Ekkekakis says—keep your pile of Pilates DVDs next to the TV; put a sticky note on your steering wheel to make sure you get to your after-work kickboxing class. Just remember: The boost you get from a reminder is usually short-term, so change the visuals often.

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6 of 18 A workout schedule (Julia Nichols/Getty Images)

To sit on an airplane

The worst place: The rear

Avoid this section if you're prone to airsickness, says retired United Airlines pilot Meryl Getline, who operates the aviation website fromthecockpit.com. "Think of a seesaw," Getline says. "The farther from the center you are, the more up-and-down movement you experience." Because the tail of the plane tends to be longer than the front, "that's the bumpiest of all," she says.

Best place: "The smoothest option is sitting as close to the wing as you can," says Getline.

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7 of 18 People on an airplane (Izabela Habur/Getty Images)

To pick up a prescription

The worst place: Pharmacy drive-thru

In a survey of 429 pharmacists, respondents ranked drive-thru windows high among distracting factors that can lead to prescription processing delays and errors, says survey author Sheryl Szeinbach, PhD, professor of pharmacy practice and administration at Ohio State University.

Best place: If you don't want to give up the convenience of a rolling pickup, be sure to check that both drug and dose are what the doctor ordered.

Is your juice interfering with your medications? Find out which dangerous drink and drug combos you should never down

8 of 18 Person getting a prescription (Steve Cole/Getty Images)

To set your handbag

The worst place: The kitchen counter

Your fancy handbag is a major tote for microbes: Gerba and his team's swabs showed up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch on purse bottoms—and a third of the bags tested positive for fecal bacteria! A woman's carryall gets parked in some nasty spots: on the floor of the bus, beneath the restaurant table—even on the floor of a public bathroom.

Best place: Put your bag in a drawer or on a chair, Gerba says—anywhere except where food is prepared or eaten.

Find out easy, natural solutions with these 42 Quick At-Home Fixes.

9 of 18 A purse on the counter (Matthieu Spohn/Getty Images)

To use a public bathroom

The worst place: The stall in the middle

The center stall has more bacteria than those on either end, according to unpublished data collected by Gerba. No, you won't catch an STD from a toilet seat. But you can contract all manner of ills if you touch a germy toilet handle and then neglect to wash your hands thoroughly.

Best place: Pick a stall all the way left or right to minimize your germ exposure.

Think public toilets are gross? Check out the 10 Worst Germ Hot Spots that you never would have guessed.

10 of 18 A public bathroom (Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images)