by Margie Coghill

Summer is a great time to focus on health and fitness. The sunny weather and warmer temperatures make it easy to enjoy the outdoors and take advantage of the season.

  1. Head outside for exercise or join a gym. Summer is a perfect time to try a new fitness routine outside or at your local gym. Walking is great for strengthening the muscles in your legs and trimming your waistline. 30 minutes of daily walking outside or at the gym can lower blood sugar, ease joint pain, boost immune function and improve your mood. Warm up by stretching and make sure to cool down by drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables to include in your summer diet. Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery and cucumbers are good for your body year-round and provide the most enzymes, vitamins and minerals needed for good health. Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are refreshing summer fruits that are low in carbohydrates. Beware of smoothies as they may contain ice cream, frozen yogurt or too much fruit. Experts recommend that you should be eating nine servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  3. Portion control. Downsize your meal by trimming trigger foods which include pastas, breads, snacks and sweets. It is easy to eat mindlessly in front of the television on a rainy day. Get to know the recommended portion sizes of the foods you love, and you will feel better. Brush your teeth after dinner or chew a piece of sugarless gum to control cravings for second helpings or fattening desserts.
  4. Use sunscreen. It is vital to use sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Hiking, biking and swimming are just some of the outdoor activities that many of us may enjoy in the summer. It is important to wear sunscreen that is between 35 to 50 SPF and remember to re-apply every two hours to prevent sunburn. Unprotected skin can be burned within 15 minutes of sun exposure.
  5. Hydrate. It is very important to drink enough water, especially during the summer. Your body is constantly losing water and to prevent dehydration health authorities recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Studies have shown that mild dehydration can negatively affect brain function, energy levels and physical performance. Drinking water can boost your metabolism and contribute to weight loss.
  6. Protect your hair. Constant heat, sun damage and chlorine can leave your hair feeling limp and dull. Try switching your shampoo to a clarifying shampoo and use an extra moisturizing conditioner. If you can, give your hair a break and avoid heat styling.
  7. Keep mosquitos away. Prevent insect bites by using repellants and sprays. Mosquitos like to rest in tall grasses and shrubs. Keep your lawn mowed and trim the bushes.
  8. Get plenty of rest. Your body needs rest to prevent sickness, tiredness and moodiness. Get enough sleep and give your body a break from working out every day. Find balance between exercising, socializing and resting.
  9. Limit alcohol. Summer is a wonderful time to indulge in adult beverages when going to a backyard barbeque, dining out or going on a vacation. Too much alcohol can cause dehydration, heat stroke and car accidents. Statistics show that young drivers are more likely to drive while intoxicated during the summer months when school is out of session. Stay safe this summer and limit your alcohol intake and/or make sure you have a designated driver.
  10. Take up a new hobby. Hobbies give us something fun to do during recreational time. Hobbies help relieve stress and increase confidence and self-esteem. Some great summer hobbies to try are cooking light, camping, gardening and fishing. Painting is a great hobby to try and discounted paints and canvases can be found online. Think of how much fun you will have expressing your artistic qualities and hanging your paintings in your home.