Summer has finally arrived! It’s the season of barbeques, relaxing on the beach and lounging in the sun, but it can also feel like tempting treats are everywhere we turn this time of year. From grabbing a cheeky 99 ice cream or a greasy takeaway, to spending the bright evenings in the local beer garden, there are lots of summer activities that can wreak havoc on our health.
But, the good news is, there are lots of easy little ways you can enjoy the summer fun while giving your health a boost! Here are some top tips from our expert Health Promotion team to help you have a healthier summer.
1. The long, light summer days make getting out for a walk a little easier. Try for a 30-minute brisk walk at least 5 days a week.
2. Alternatively, try for 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week like running, cycling, or a team sport.
3. Muscle strengthening exercise is recommended twice a week; lifting weights, carrying heavy shopping bags, yoga and Pilates all count!
4. Or start with 10-minute segments. Housework, washing the car or even cutting the grass are all exercise, as long as they increase your heart rate.
Physical activity lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, improves your mood, strengthens muscles and bones and promotes better sleep.
5. If porridge is something you associate with winter, think again! Baked porridge bars, eaten hot or cold, are a great summer alternative (recipe at www.nichs.org.uk).
6. Aim for at least 2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables per day. Try snacking on:
- Seasonal raspberries and strawberries
- Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus
- Sliced apple with a little peanut butter
7. Salads for lunch or dinner can increase your veg intake - load up with tomatoes, peppers and beetroot. Pulses and lentils make a meat-free alternative, rich in protein and high in fibre.
8. Avocados, oily fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds are all high in Omega 3. In moderation, they can increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.
9. Natural/ Greek yoghurt makes a healthy snack. Add fruit for sweetness or some nuts and seeds for a good cholesterol boost!
10. Avoid adding salt to food. High levels of salt in your diet can increase your risk of high blood pressure. Aim for no more 1 teaspoon a day.
11. Summer BBQs are hard to resist but burgers and sausages are high in saturated fat. As a healthier option, barbeque vegetables with a baked potato and serve with salad.
12. Sauce (red or brown) are high in salt and sugar, so only use small amounts. Why not add pepper, herbs or spices instead?
13. Did you know that we should aim to drink 2 litres of water every day? Add mint or cucumber for extra flavour and carry a refillable bottle.
14. Stress can affect us all but breathing techniques and mindfulness can help. For stress management techniques and free videos visit www.nichs.org.uk/information/risk-factors/stress
15. With lockdown easing, it’s only natural to feel worried about change. Make sure to talk to family and friends, exercise regularly and try out NICHS’s stress support.
If you are experiencing high levels of stress, and it is affecting your quality of life, book an appointment with your GP.
16. In the summer sun, it’s easy to drink one too many but it’s important to stick to the alcohol guidelines. The NHS recommends no more than 14 units per week.
17. Try for several alcohol-free days each week.
Alcohol is high in calories and can increase your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, particularly if you regularly drink above the guidelines.
18. With sunset late in the evening, it can be more difficult to sleep well. Make your room is dark, avoid watching TV an hour before bed and turn on your phone’s blue light filter.
19. For better sleep, avoid high sugar food before bed, reduce your alcohol intake and try not to exceed 3 cups of tea or coffee per day.
Adults should aim for 7-9 hours’ sleep each night.
20 . If you currently smoke, consider quitting. Ask your GP or local pharmacy for advice on gum, patches and sprays or visit www.stopsmokingni.info for more information.