Even though the official first day of fall isn't for a few more (precious) weeks, Labor Day, by many accounts, is the unofficial end of summer. After this glorious long weekend, kids head back to school (if they haven't already done so), air conditioners come out and those white pants get relegated to the back of the closet.
And why not? It’s an extra day off work, after all, or at the very least a break from your regular routine, and a day made for squeezing every last ounce out of summer.
Here are some of our favorite (healthy!) ways to make the most out of Labor Day weekend -- even though, yes, it may still be 85 degrees in mid-September.
Throw A Smart Barbecue
There's no more fun way to put food on the table in the summertime than grilling, but there are real benefits to firing up the barbecue: People who prepare their own meals not only <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/14/healthy-weekend-activities_n_1672239.html#slide=1224033" target="_hplink">have smaller waistlines, they live longer, too</a>. Just be sure to serve it up smartly: Choose lean, unprocessed meats, load up on the veggies and don't overcook anything, since <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/04/healthy-bbq-tips-barbecue-nutrition_n_1648049.html" target="_hplink">charred food can contain carcinogens</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/4765765051/" target="_hplink">woodleywonderworks</a></em>
Plan A Healthy Picnic
Don't feel like lighting up the grill? Reap the benefits of a home-cooked meal and savor the out of doors with some healthy grub to go. Pack some fruit, veggies and other smart picks from this list of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/best-worst-picnic-foods_n_1536281.html" target="_hplink">the best picnic foods</a> and park yourself in your favorite green space.
Take One Last Outdoor Swim
If your city or town has public outdoor pools, it's likely that their lifeguards will blow the final whistle this weekend. Sneak in one last dip before then -- 30 minutes of light laps <a href="http://www.myfitnesspal.com/exercise/lookup" target="_hplink">can burn nearly 250 calories</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/brisbanecitycouncil/6837749318/" target="_hplink">Brisbane City Council</a></em>
Shop The Sales
If your local outlet mall or favorite department store is having a Labor Day sale, do your wallet (and your waistline) a favor by strolling the aisles. It's not exactly a high-intensity workout, but it beats <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/24/sitting-at-work-why-its-dangerous-alternatives_n_1695618.html" target="_hplink">sitting</a>!
Spend One Last Day At The Beach
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/15/move-more-weekend_n_1672499.html#slide=1224757" target="_hplink">Build a sand castle</a> (it works your abs!), take a jog or a long walk in the surf, ride a few waves -- even if you do <em>nothing</em> but lie there, at least you can say you did it <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/15/get-vitamin-d_n_1671396.html" target="_hplink">for the vitamin D</a> (just load up on sunscreen, please). <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/fieldsofview/4681998972/" target="_hplink">Fields of View</a></em>
Play Lawn Games
Before you pack away the bocce set, challenge friends to a lawn game tournament and spend the afternoon playing. A number of the classics are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/lawn-games-calorie-counts-memorial-day-_n_1546462.html" target="_hplink">modest calories burners</a> -- and, at the very least, distractions from that never-ending barbecue fare. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jronaldlee/4634608769/" target="_hplink">jronaldlee</a></em>
Can Or Freeze Fresh Produce
Overwhelmed by an abundance of summer squash or strawberries? You don't have to say goodbye to the season's freshest produce if you know how to preserve it. Berries, peaches, corn, tomatoes and more can all be frozen. <em>EatingWell</em> has <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/kitchen_tips_techniques/how_to_freeze_16_fruits_and_vegetables" target="_hplink">easy-to-follow how-to steps</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/3715806806/" target="_hplink">little blue hen</a></em>
Try A Water Sport
So you spent all summer saying this would be the year you <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/15/move-more-weekend_n_1672499.html#slide=1224760" target="_hplink">paddled a kayak</a> or learned to surf. Well, you've still got time! Check your water sport of choice off your summer bucket list this weekend before temps cool. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pictfactory/6272889302/" target="_hplink">PictFactory</a></em>
Reset Your Sleep Schedule
Especially if you have kids at home who are headed back to school, earlier wake up times may be on the horizon. Readjusting your sleep schedule for those fall mornings is akin to jet lag. Consider moving bedtime a few minutes earlier each night this weekend, so you'll wake up a little sooner naturally, on your way to a painless <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/back-to-school-sleep_n_1773950.html" target="_hplink">back-to-school transition</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ozmafan/5827414616/" target="_hplink">ozmafan</a></em>