Summertime should be a time for individuals, families and friends to spend together doing what makes them laugh, enjoy each other’s’ company, and contribute to everyone’s overall well-being. In the middle of vacation or weekend getaway planning, or just carving time out of your busy schedule for some fun activities, keep these six healthy behavior tips in mind.
“Summer means happy times and good sunshine. It means going to the beach, going to Disneyland, having fun.” – Brian Wilson
Get active outdoors.
With a preponderance of good-weather days to take advantage of, why not do just that? Get outside with friends and family and participate in the wealth of activities summertime seems to invite. Science shows that being outside in nature has wide-ranging health benefits, everything from reducing the risk of heart problems diabetes, stress, high blood pressure, premature birth and premature death to an increase in overall well-being. A popular health practice in Japan is “forest bathing,” and the desire to commune in greenspace has rapidly caught on in America. With all the national, state and city parks, as well as conscientious homeowners planting trees, shrubs and gardens, there’s ample opportunity to get outside and take in what nature has to offer. Exercise, play sports, go to the beach or amusement park, have a picnic, fish, snorkel, go for a walk. The choices are endless.
Hydrate and eat light.
Water is your body’s best friend when it comes to effectively combatting summertime heat. The sun is extremely dehydrating, along with challenging or vigorous physical exercise and activity when the temperatures soar. You may not realize you’re thirsty until the damage is already done. Avoid the risk of sunstroke and other medical complications, some of which can be life-threatening, by regularly drinking water and other non-alcoholic fluids. Health experts say to start by drinking 16-20 ounces of water 1-2 hours before exercising, and 6-12 ounces of water every 15 minutes when you’re outside. When you come back inside, you’re still not done rehydrating. Drink another 16-24 ounces. While you’re at it, avoid stuffing yourself in the heat. You’ll feel sluggish, unmotivated to get moving, and your digestive system will have to work harder to process all that food. Instead, eat light and avoid too much sugar and carbohydrates. You’ll sleep better at night too.
Put away the smartphone while driving.
You might think you’re wonderfully ambidextrous and adept at multi-tasking, yet the science is not on your side. It’s impossible to fully devote your attention and focus to more than one activity at once. Something’s going to give. When you’re behind the wheel, put away the smartphone, say all the experts. Even though you firmly believe it’s not all that dangerous to sneak in a quick text, call or peruse social media at the stoplight or while idling in traffic, the obsession to engage in this unhealthy behavior may do more than cause other drivers to honk their horns at you. You could very well cause or be in an accident because your concentration isn’t where it should be – on your driving.
Research shows that talking on a smartphone or other mobile device increases risk of a crash by 2.2 times, while texting increases that risk by 6.1 times. The researchers also found that females are more likely than males to use phones while driving, and more years of experience driving decreases distracted driving. They noted that drivers, while usually able to self-regulate in certain instances, such as in heavy traffic or curving road conditions, they’re less likely to be able to identify where it’s safe to use the phone. The strong recommendation: put the phone away until you can pull over to safely use the device.
Protect your skin from UV rays and exposure to carcinogens from barbequing.
Relaxing at the beach can be a prosocial way for friends and families to get in some quality time, yet it’s always wise to bring along several layers of protection against the sun’s harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays. Clothing you can add or shed certainly helps, including wide-brimmed hats, as do various sun protection factor (SPF) creams and lotions. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends choosing a higher-protection broad spectrum SPF sunscreen (30 or 50) that’s water-resistant for the best protection. Summertime cookouts on the barbecue have long been a favorite, yet new research shows that the skin (in addition to the lungs) absorbs harmful carcinogens from compounds released during smoking and grilling. Just because you’re wearing a shirt and pants, or other protective clothing doesn’t eliminate the exposure. For this reason, experts recommend washing those barbecue-smoke exposed garments right afterward.
Do your best to stay cool.
Excessive heat and high humidity are extraordinarily dangerous to your health, responsible for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and organ and other bodily systems failure as the circulatory and central nervous systems shut down. When temperatures climb into the 100s, the humidity skyrockets, and remains there for days on end, you feel depleted, drained, unmotivated, dull and it takes longer to concentrate and focus. Keeping the body cool is a must, so make sure you have access to somewhere indoors where the temperature is controlled and cool. Whether that’s an air-conditioned room at home, a shopping mall, movie theater, restaurant, sporting event or entertainment venue, do your best to stay cool.
Laugh a lot.
Nothing makes you feel immediately better like a good laugh. In fact, laughter is such an excellent medicine, if it could be packaged and sold, it’d be worth millions. Since you can’t buy laughter, however, it’s priceless. Tell some family-friendly jokes at your next get-together to spark congeniality in the group. Be on the lookout for a good comedy on TV, through a streaming service, or at the movies. Sit back with those you care about and let yourself enjoy the humor. Go ahead and laugh out loud. Laughing helps you effectively cope with stress, make more of social relationships, helps in coping with distress, reduces feelings of anger and helps boost happiness. Smiling and laughing may even help you live longer.
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…” Great lyrics by George Gershwin from the classic song he wrote for the 1935 musical Porgy and Bess.