Is it August... already? Well, if you think it's too late to squeeze in some more summer fun, think again. You still have more than a month to not only squiggle love notes in the sand with your feet -- what, you haven't done that, yet? -- but also some more time to get into some summer-healthy habits before the summer's officially over.
What makes summer a good time to establish some good habits, you ask? Well, if you take a look back at what you've been doing since June, you might be surprised to discover that your behaviors may have adapted in unique ways to the warmer months. For instance, you might spend your lunch break outside, as opposed to the usually-crammed cafeteria. Or, when you do eat, you're more motivated to eat lighter meals with smaller portions and fewer calories than you typically do. You're probably eating more fruit and vegetables, and not just in smoothies. Why? Maybe because your motivation has been to make sure you have just the right fit when it comes to sporting a swimsuit this season... or you could be training to give Usain Bolt a run for his money in 2016. See how it all comes together?
Yes, summertime offers its advantages of giving us certain incentives to get healthier. By picking up some healthy traits now, let's try to make sure we keep it that way... the whole year round!
Using all five of our senses to help us get the healthiest benefits of summer in every possible way, here is a list of some activities and behaviors you want to adopt before Labor Day arrives!
Sense of Sight: The band Timbuk3 may be best remembered for their '80s rock telling us that we've "gotta wear shades." While we've left a lot of '80s wear back in the '80s -- hopefully! -- wearing shades this summer is not only en vogue, it's also one of the more important health-conscious accessories you can wear this summer.
As I mentioned in "Don't Forget About Protecting Your Eyes When You Put on Sunscreen," rocking your favorite pair of summer eyewear may only be of benefit to your health given one condition: the lenses need to offer 99-100 percent protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays. Because UV rays are present -- and, thus, are a potential threat -- both during the most sweltering of summer days as well as in overcast skies and cooler temperatures, the practice of wearing appropriate sunglasses through fall and winter may be a blessing to your eyes in the future that will be well worth starting now!
Sense of Hearing: Hearing loss affects about 36 million Americans. Some of us mistakenly believe that hearing loss only occurs as we get older. Wrong! In fact, a recent study showed a 31 percent increase in hearing loss among teenagers. In order to preserve our hearing, this summer it'd be a good idea to turn down our volumes, especially in our iPod and smartphone headsets, starting at the lowest comfortable volume before cranking it up to higher decibels. Reducing volumes is a practice that if you start now will leave better hearing as you have more and more summers behind you.
Sense of Smell: You may recognize "stop and smell the roses" as a figure of speech, but there may be, in fact, some value to using your sense of smell this summer, as well as all year round. Some research suggests that fragrant properties in plants may be good for our health (see references below). While there are conflicting reports on aromatherapy's ability to reduce pain, mood may be positively affected, specifically with smelling essential lemon oil. Products containing citrus limonum oils extracted from lemons may be a useful boost to your mood now and when you need a stress reliever when the holiday season starts arriving.
Sense of Taste: Heavy, greasy foods may remind us of feeling heavier, greasier ourselves -- especially in the summer -- which is why we may opt out of such foods at this time of year. Our preferences may turn from heavy, large meals into lighter foods with smaller portions. Especially when it comes to outdoor options, it's a great time to choose grilled over fried, water over soft drinks, as well as fruits over heavy desserts. "Superfoods," such as blueberries, are known for warding off disease, and may be worth giving a try before the summer's out. While eating light this summer may help you feel light on your feet, keeping your summer healthy-eating routine all year round may actually add up to not only inches taken off your waistline but prove to be a great strategy in helping ward off weight-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Sense of Touch: Now that your eyes are appropriately prepared to brave the summer outdoors, why don't we bring your skin up to speed as well? Feel the warm breeze of summer, especially if it encourages you to be more active given the range of sports that the summertime affords a greater opportunity for, including outdoor swimming, golf, and cycling. It will be important, however, to apply a sunscreen that offers appropriate sun protective factor (SPF) protection against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
How much protection is enough? Regardless of your skin color or tone, use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 with protection against both UVA and UVB rays; they both can cause cancer. Don't forget that cancer can also develop on the lips, so now's a great time to invest in lip balm. Most relevant to why developing these habits is important now is that since a large percentage of UV can be emitted through clouds and reflected off of snow, you'll want to keep these great protective measures for yourself and your family all year round!
There you have it! If you at least start getting the hang of putting the above into practice by Labor Day, you'll be healthier all year round!
Hoffman C (2006). Aromatherapy. In MS Micozzi, ed., Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., pp. 207-220. St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders.
Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Hay IC; Jamieson M; Ormerod AD Arch Dermatol, 134:1349-52, 1998 Nov
Dunn C; Sleep J; Collett D Sensing an improvement: an experimental study to evaluate the use of aromatherapy, massage and periods of rest in an intensive care unit. Journal of Advanced Nursing (ENGLAND) Jan 1995, 21 (1) p34-40
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