Enjoying Healthy and Fun Summer Days

by Lily White
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With school out and work slowing down, the warm weather offers many chances to boost your health. Enjoy fresh, local produce and a variety of outdoor activities. Here are some tips to make the most of your summer.

“When the weather is nice, you have more opportunities to get outdoors, have fun with your family, and incorporate exercise into daily life,” says Dr. Susan Yanovski, co-director of the Office of Obesity Research at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“Summer is a great time to increase activity safely,” agrees Dr. Marie A. Bernard, deputy director of NIH’s National Institute on Aging.

Stay Active with Fun Outdoor Activities

The options are almost endless:

  • Take evening walks around the neighborhood.
  • Sign the kids up for sports programs at the local community or recreation center.
  • Go swimming together.
  • Ride your bike or hike through a park.
  • Plan a family softball or soccer game.

Stay Safe in the Summer Heat

Heat is the biggest danger in summer. Prolonged heat exposure can cause serious, sometimes fatal illnesses. Older adults are particularly at risk for hyperthermia, as their bodies may respond less efficiently to summer heat.

Watch for hyperthermia warning signs: headache, nausea, dizziness, muscle spasms, and fatigue. If you suspect someone has hyperthermia, move them to a cool place, offer water, and encourage them to rest and cool off with a shower, bath, or sponge bath.

Heat stroke is a severe form of hyperthermia and can be life-threatening. Symptoms include a body temperature above 104°F, confusion, aggressive behavior, faintness, rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, lack of sweating, or coma. Seek medical help immediately if these symptoms occur.

To prevent hyperthermia:

  • Avoid strenuous activities in midday heat.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids.

Protect Yourself from the Summer Sun

“Summer is when the sun’s intensity is greatest,” says Anne M. Hartman of NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources like sun lamps and tanning beds is strongly linked to skin cancer.

“Over 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year,” Hartman says. “Both UVB and UVA rays cause skin and eye damage, including skin cancer.”

To protect yourself from UV rays, Dr. Frank Perna of NCI recommends:

  • Slip on a shirt: Wear long sleeves and pants to cover as much skin as possible.
  • Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15. For better protection, choose SPF 30 or higher and ensure it offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Slap on a hat: Choose a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, ears, and neck.
  • Wrap on sunglasses: Ensure they block at least 99% of UVA and UVB radiation.

Enjoy Healthy Summer Eating

Summer offers great opportunities for healthy eating. “When you’re hot, a salad tastes really good,” Yanovski says. “It’s easy to grill some chicken and make a salad with grilled chicken or fish and fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Take advantage of locally grown produce. “You can have fun trying what’s seasonal and tasty,” Yanovski adds.

Be mindful of summer picnics and barbecues. Many side dishes like potato salad and coleslaw can be high in fat and calories. Bring your own healthy side dishes, such as fresh fruit salad, a side salad, or cut-up vegetables with hummus. Stay away from the food table to avoid temptation.

Food Safety in the Heat

Keep foods cool to prevent food poisoning. Microbes can grow quickly in food left out too long.

With some planning, you can enjoy the opportunities summer brings while staying healthy and safe.

By Lily White

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