Four simple ways to improve your well being this summer.
Summer is the time of year when many of us hope to act on those resolutions made so many months ago to be more healthy: get active, eat well, and stay positive. Yet in the chaos surrounding summer vacations, family reunions, and home renovation projects, it’s easy to let these health resolutions slip – again.
Here are four simple ways you can sneak “healthy” into any busy summer routine.
1. Go for a walk. Over the past few years, researchers have discovered that walking improves everything from your sex life to your insulin intake (see sidebar). Perhaps the most significant benefit is all in your head – walking may help guard the brain from Alzheimer’s, the 7th leading cause of death.
Walking eight kilometres per week protects the brain structure, especially in areas of the brain’s key memory and learning centres, and slows the decline of memory loss. An after dinner walk on the beach, anyone?
2. Breathe deeply. Activities such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi can boost your physical and mental health in many ways. In fact, one study found that just a few minutes of deep breathing and stretching associated with yoga helped relieve chronic pain, anxiety and depression. There are over a dozen different kinds of yoga to try – everything from mindfulness to aerobic stretching.
“Check with your local YMCA,” suggests Julie Ferrari, an Ashtanga yoga instructor who once suffered from chronic back pain. “My body was a train wreck,” says the mother of one. After a few months of regular yoga practice, however, Ferrari saw improvement in her flexibility, strength, and peace of mind. “A year later, the pain is just gone,” she says.
Too shy for classes? You can also check out a book or DVD from your local library and take it with you on a family trip.
3. Wear (the right) sunblock. Now is the time of year to pay as much attention to what you put on your body as what you put in it. We all know the benefits of slathering on sunscreen each day, especially for children whose delicate skin is more sensitive to the sun. But parents may not know they should pay as much attention to the ingredients as to the SPF rating. A higher rating isn’t necessarily better for you.
According to product evaluation service Goodguide.com, most sunblocks that rate above an SPF 30 contain some known carcinogenic chemicals, yet only provide a fraction more protection. For example, SPF 30 blocks 97% of harmful UVA rays while SPF 60 stops only about 98%. Exposing yourself, or your loved ones, to potential toxins isn’t worth the added percent.
4. Smile more. You’ve heard the adage, “Fake it ’ til you feel it”? Well, there may be some medical benefit in this advice after all. According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, “Studies show the mere act of smiling makes people happier — even when they smile mechanically.”
But it’s not all about feeling good. Smiling not only improves your mood, but it can actually lead to overall improved health and longevity. In fact, in a recent issue of Psychological Science, researchers found a connection between smile intensity in photographs and length of life. That is, those who smiled more intensely in the pictures were found to have a lived an average of four years longer than those who didn’t smile.
And what’s not to smile about? It’s summer!