What is it about the arrival of summer that makes us want to make better choices for our health? Maybe it’s the abundance of color in the produce section, getting us excited about the return of seasonal fruits and veggies. Add to that the thought of picnics in the park and the afternoon sun warming our shoulders. Swimsuit season and beach vacations also give us that extra boost of motivation, persuading us to opt for healthier choices on our plates.
If healthy habits are on your agenda as the summer months get closer, then you’re probably on the lookout for tips and tricks to make them stick. Like any changes to your diet, your vitamin intake, or your exercise routine, results require consistency. For a healthier approach, you have to pivot.
3 Healthy Summertime Habits
Fresh habits can help you make the most of summer, and feel better while doing it. Here’s how to ensure that your body gets what it needs to function optimally in the sunniest season.
1. Stay Hydrated
The summer sun is an invitation to spend more time outdoors. All of that increased sun exposure causes our bodies to perspire, meaning we sweat out water as a means to cool down. Just sitting outside reading a book or watching a baseball game is enough to break a sweat in some regions. But no matter where you live, any outdoor physical activity under the summer sun will speed up the amount of water loss through sweating.
The more you sweat, the more at risk you are for dehydration. If you’re not rehydrating regularly, side effects are your body’s way of signaling that it needs water. If you’re outdoors and you begin to feel lethargic, thirsty, or dizzy, a big drink of water might be just what your body is craving.
The importance of staying hydrated as the days get hotter can’t be overstated. This is especially true if you’re engaging in physical activity outdoors. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluid a day for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women. This amount can vary per person. A good reference to use is the color of your urine. Dark urine means you should increase your fluid intake until it is a light yellow or amber color. Also, don’t forget your electrolytes. You can lose sodium, potassium, and magnesium in sweat and urine. It is recommended that we consume 2.3g per day of sodium (up to 3.6 per day if sweating), at least 3.6g of potassium per day for men and 2.6 g per day for women, and 420 mg of magnesium per day for men and 320 mg per day for women.
Pro-Tip: Get in the habit of carrying around a water bottle and keep it filled throughout the day. If you have water handy, you’ll inevitably drink more of it. Invest in one you like that will keep your drinks cool and you’ll be more inclined to carry it with you everywhere. Make sure you choose one that’s BPA and phthalate-free to avoid the leaching of toxic chemicals in warm temperatures. Food grade stainless steel water bottles are a great non-toxic option to keep your drinks warm or cold.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Summertime means the sun stays out later and the days get longer. It’s easy to end up short on your usual zzz’s if you’re not keeping track. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep is important year-round, and admittedly easier in the darker winter months.
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age and your level of physical activity. According to the Sleep Foundation, children and teens should get between 8-14 hours per night, with infants at the higher end. For healthy adults, between 7-9 hours is recommended. If you have a particularly active day, make sure you create more time for rest at the end of the day.
Pro-Tip: Balance the extra time outdoors with a regular wind-down routine at night. The Sleep Foundation suggests that when you activate your body’s relaxation response, you let go of stress and anxiety that could be preventing you from getting enough rest. They suggest routinely engaging in deep breathing, calming visualization, and muscle relaxation exercises. Getting sunlight exposure to your eyes for 2 to 10 minutes before 10 am helps set your circadian clock. Exercising early in the day is also associated with more restful sleep at night.
3. Assess Your Micronutrients
Our micronutrient needs vary seasonally, so it’s important to adjust your supplements accordingly. For example, more outdoor activities during the summer months mean you’re naturally increasing your vitamin D levels. So, if you regularly take a vitamin D supplement, that’s one that you can likely stop taking until the summer sun has waned. You can get your vitamin D levels checked to ensure you’re getting enough sunlight to maintain adequate levels during the warm summer months.
Pro-Tip: With greater sun exposure comes a higher vulnerability to UV radiation. To counter this, studies show that a supplement combination of vitamins C and E works together to fight free radicals in the body. Supplementing these vitamins, especially during the summer months, can help reduce oxidative stress.
The great thing about our bodies is that they are adaptable. They’re also remarkably forgiving when we experience momentary lapses of our caretaking responsibilities. But to build that resilience, we have to give them what they need to function. We do that by staying hydrated, giving ourselves enough downtime in the form of rest, and making sure we’re providing our system with enough vitamins and minerals. Committing to this healthy habit trifecta gives us the fuel we need to ensure that our bodies can give us their best!