Ah, summer â€“ the season of abundance, greenery and lazy carefree days. Who doesnâ€™t feel inspired at this time of year? Longer days, more sunlight and the promise of fun all encourage us to get our act together and make positive changes in our lives. Because we tend to feel more energised and positive in the summer, weâ€™re more likely to stick to health-related resolutions now than we are during the bleak January days that follow the New Year.
Of course, this doesnâ€™t necessarily mean taking on an intense fitness regime or embarking on a week-long juice detox â€“ although both of these things can be beneficial, especially in the midst of beach season. Rather, cleaning up your health can be as simple as making those tiny adjustments in your daily routine that you know make a difference, but somehow never quite stick â€“ so why not use the seasonâ€™s vibrant energy to introduce these beneficial tweaks on a permanent basis?
To show you how simple it can be to give your health a summer tune-up, here is a list of easy changes that will make a real difference to your wellbeing, both now and throughout the year:
Get enough sleep
This one may seem a bit obvious, but the reality is that many of us lead such stressed, hectic lives that we donâ€™t allow enough time for a full nightâ€™s sleep, or are so preoccupied by our worries and to-do lists that we have trouble falling asleep once we do retire to bed. Even though the days are longer and we may be tempted to stay up later, try to make sleep a priority â€“ this means making time to relax sufficiently and get a solid 7-9 hours of rest. This will improve your mood, concentration and appearance, and lessen your risk of weight gain and a range of serious illnesses.
Eat more salads
Many leafy greens are coming into season now, so take advantage of this fresh, tasty produce to make a variety of tempting salads. Leafy greens are packed full of antioxidants to protect against disease and the free radicals that cause ageing, and theyâ€™re low-calorie and filling, which will help your waistline. Skip iceberg lettuce and try darker greens – such as rocket, watercress and spinach – for maximum benefit.
For optimum health and weight maintenance, most experts recommend you perform some kind of moderate physical activity for at least half an hour a day, five days a week. For those just getting back into fitness, or those who lack the time or motivation to hit the gym or go for a run, simple walking can be just as effective. Walk some of the way to work, take a stroll during your lunch break, or go for a hike with a group of friends at the weekend â€“ it all counts. Aim for 10,000 steps a day for the best results â€“ it sounds like a lot, but youâ€™d be surprised how quickly it adds up. Use a pedometer or device such as a Fitbug to track your progress.
Eliminate simple sugars
Many people blame carbohydrates for weight gain, but more often itâ€™s eating the wrong type of carbs thatâ€™s to blame. Simple, refined carbs such as those found in white bread, white pasta and white rice (as well as biscuits, cakes and any sugary treat) contribute little nutritional value and can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then drop, making you feel tired and potentially leading to fat storage. Wholegrain carbs, however â€“ such as those found in brown rice, wholegrain bread and pasta, and beans and legumes â€“ are rich in nutrients and fibre and provide a slow release of energy that will fuel your body and mind throughout the day. Switch your refined carbs for wholegrain versions for better health and a slimmer figure.
Get a tune-up
Now is a good time to visit your GP, dentist, or any other specialist if you have any health niggles that youâ€™ve been putting off getting checked. Even if you donâ€™t, itâ€™s not a bad idea to get a routine check-up to identify any problems before they have a chance to get serious â€“ this can include blood pressure, cholesterol, and mole checks, among other things.
Wear an SPF cream
Most of us know the dangers of tanning, but not everyone realises that incidental daily exposure to the sun â€“ while outdoors, in the car or bus, or through windows â€“ can also contribute to premature ageing and, more seriously, skin cancer. Protect your skin by wearing a daily moisturiser or sun cream with SPF 15 or higher, every day. Apply at least 15 minutes before going out into the sun, and make sure you use enough to coat the skin thoroughly â€“ a patchy application wonâ€™t afford sufficient protection.
Drink your way to health
This of course means choosing healthier beverage options. Rather than dehydrating coffee and sugary fizzy drinks, opt for antioxidant-rich green tea and pure water, both of which help hydrate the body and flush out toxins without adding extra calories or damaging your teeth. They can also help with weight loss in that they help you feel full and satisfied for longer, and some studies suggest that components in green tea may actually help speed up your metabolism.
What healthy habits are you adopting this summer?