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• Smart Skin Protection
Summertime is the preferred season for many of us — and with good reason. Kids always look forward to June because it signals the end of the school year. Adults get excited because it’s the start of beach days and backyard barbeques. We all can hardly contain our excitement for the next few months ahead, but we must remember to support our health and wellbeing amid all the summer fun.
And of course, everyone’s summer routine is different; some choose to spend their time outdoors under the sun, others opt to stay cool in the shade until the fall rolls around, and a lot of people try to split the difference with a little sun, a bit of shade, and a lot of air conditioning.
But one thing we’re all on the same page about is always supporting our health, especially as the temperatures rise and the sun is at its strongest.
So, before you dive into the deep end of the pool, be sure to dive into this list of ways to support your health all summer long!
1. Protect Your Skin
We’re all excited to spend some time outdoors this summer — but we need to be mindful that too much sun is bad for our skin. In fact, did you know that UV radiation starts becoming harmful in just five to ten minutes for those with very fair skin? And it takes less than an hour of exposure for those with darker skin to receive a sunburn.
Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to serious skin damage. And don’t forget that tanning beds can negatively impact your body’s outermost layer as well.
Tammy Losee, a nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic, recommends avoiding the sun between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 PM, performing regular skin checks, and, of course, using sunscreen when outdoors. Losee notes that higher SPF numbers indicate increased protection and suggests using sunscreen even on cloudy and cool days. Be sure to re-apply every two hours or after swimming or when sweating. Don’t forget to check the expiration date as well!
Losee echoes the same line of thinking as the American Academy of Dermatology, who recommend using a water resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays and is at least SPF 30.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
This one is a given, but especially so during the hot summer months. According to the American Heart Association, keeping hydrated helps your heart pump blood through the blood vessels and to your muscles.
Dehydration is a serious condition that can lead to swollen feet, headaches, and more serious heat-related illness — and in extreme cases a trip to the hospital or worse.
But everyone is different when it comes to staying hydrated, so how are we supposed to know the correct amount of water to drink?
Well, it starts with your thirst, according to sports medicine physician, John Batson, M.D.: “If you get thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” Batson recommends listening to your body for tell-tale signs of when you need to drink. He also recommends paying attention to the color of your urine (dark urine means dehydration) and drinking the same amount of water you sweat out: “For every pound of sweat you lose, that’s a pint of water you’ll need to replenish.”
And if you’re looking for a general guide as to how much water you should drink, check out this helpful guide by the School of Public Health at Harvard University
Fortunately, sources of water are not limited to actual glasses of water. According to the AHA, sources of water also include fruits and vegetables, sports drinks that contain electrolytes, and even unsalted nuts. But nothing beats a cool drink of water in the summer, especially when it comes to saving calories.
3. Stay Active
The warm weather yields plenty of opportunity to keep the blood pumping by participating in physical activity. However, the summer temperatures tend to reach levels that may cause you to think again before heading outside and working up a sweat.
But staying active during the summer is just as important as the other three seasons, so we must find creative ways to keep the body moving.
The American Heart Association’s “25 Ways To Move More During Summer" provides “out of the box” ways to get exercise and be more physically active without spending too much time in the summer sun:
- Dog Walking
- Bird Watching
These are just some of the unique ways to get your move on. You don’t have to do every activity on this list but try to pick one or two that appeal to you the most. And though physical activity is important, be sure to make “having fun” a priority while participating in these exciting adventures!
4. Keep Your Body Temperature in Check
We’ve covered why it is important to stay active during the summer, but it is also just as important to maintain a healthy body temperature while doing so. The warm temperatures outside affect our core temperatures on the inside, so be mindful when it comes to staying cool this summer.
Michigan State University notes that as you heat up, your body is already working to maintain a balance between the heat you gain and the heat you release:
- Your hypothalamus: This small gland inside your brain commands your autonomic nervous system, including temperature regulation.
- Your skin: Think of sweat glands and blood vessels near the surface of your skin as your body’s own a/c — acting as vents, ductwork, and “freon” to help deal with excess heat.
The warm temperatures impact our body’s internal health, and it can also do the same to our external health as well. That is why it is important to shield your skin with the appropriate attire; clothing and hats are among the easiest ways to protect yourself from the sun’s powerful rays.
But before you don your new hat, shirt, and sunglasses, you may want to check the tags for some specific verbiage. That’s because more and more clothing and outdoor companies are selling clothing that features an ultraviolet protection factor, or (UPF). These clothes are designed to block UVA and UVB rays. So next time you’re in the market for a new summer garment, be sure to seek clothing that features UPF protection.
5. Take a Break!
Today’s fast paced environment keeps us busy at seemingly all hours of day and, sometimes, even night! And though taking breaks throughout the day can help us stay at our best, we sometimes forget to take a minute for ourselves, which can wear us out and even lead to a decline in performance.
But research shows that taking purposeful breaks ranging from five minutes to a full hour can refresh your brain and body, which helps increase your energy, productivity, and ability to focus.
Charlotte Fritz, PhD, an associate professor in industrial/organization psychology at Portland State University, said it best: “Breaks can improve our moods, overall well-being, and performance capacity.”
The health department at Cornell University’s list of “5-minute stress busters” could steer you in the right direction when it comes to break time:
- Deep breathing: Take slow, deep breaths through your nose. Try to fill your whole chest and exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: Start with your toes and work your way to your head. Slowly tighten, hold, and then relax your muscle groups including your feet, legs, buttocks, abdomen, shoulders, arms, hands, and face. Cornell states this exercise is also great for helping you fall asleep.
- Mini-meditation: Calm your mind — it may help you feel more focused and relaxed.
- Visualization: Think of a task that needs to be completed. Picture yourself rehearsing and proceed to imagine yourself acing the task. Try to pinpoint how your success feels
- Change of scenery: Get up and take a short walk.
- Let it out: Laugh with someone you care about. Do a quick exercise or dance. Play your favorite song.
So, this summer, make an honest attempt to flip the script and prioritize time away from work. Take an hour each day and spend it with family, catch up with a friend, or step outside and bask in the summer sun in a safe and responsible manner.
Kick Off Your Summer on A Healthy Note
School’s out, work may be a little slower than usual, and the days are long. Summer is a great time to get outside and participate in all your favorite activities. From a family day at the beach, to making s’mores with your friends when the sun finally goes down, this season has something for everyone. And though you may find yourself running around more than you’d like, we must make time to support our health by protecting our skin, drinking plenty of fluids, taking a break, and more.