Make the summer calendar count
Summer is approximately 90 days long. That’s more than enough time to break bad habits and start healthy new ones. Starting today, take a look at how many days you have left before mid-September when the season typically ends. Then, decide on a weekly weight loss goal. Use your calendar to pencil in workouts to help you meet that goal. Pick an event or two that will keep you motivated, such as participating in a 5K walk/run. To find one coming up in your area, check out Active.com. Schedule family bike rides or plan to meet friends at the local pool for lap swimming on a regular basis. Want to get creative? Invite the neighbors over for a summer dessert party, and draw from this list of 14 healthy frozen summer desserts as your guide. This way you can look forward to fun plans that are in line with your health goals.
Go for a non-negotiable daily walk
We’ve all heard the health benefits of walking, right? So how often do you walk for exercise? Given that this simple activity can boost creativity, rev up metabolism, and helps you look younger, making this a daily habit is the best thing you can do for yourself this summer. A Duke University study found that 30 minutes of daily walking is enough to prevent weight gain in most people who lead sedentary lives. This summer try walking for 45 minutes per day (approximately three miles), which would give you an easy 300-calorie deficit. Think you don’t have 45 minutes to walk? Try getting your movement in while your kids ride bikes around the neighborhood; or you can set your alarm early to get in a walk before work. While you walk, you can even use the time to make phone calls or catch up on a podcast.
Two words: Vacation sex.
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Planning a vacation this summer? According to the U.S. Travel Association, one-third of all leisure travelers say they have more sex while on vacation. Psychology Today reported that a study published in the Journal of Personal Relationships found that overall intimacy increases when couples engage in new activities together. On vacation, this could mean sightseeing, parasailing, or trying new foods together. The trick is that both partners must find the new experience to be exciting. Not planning any particular adventures this summer? You’re in luck because according to a new survey reported in Shape, July and August are the most popular months for sex. Turns out arousal is triggered by the extra sun and overall relaxing vibe the season brings. Thank you, summer.
Plan to eat seasonal produce
Eating seasonal produce can mean more flavor, nutrition, and variety. Summer food, in particular, offers health benefits. At the farmer’s market, consider picking up thirst-quenching watermelon, potassium-packed apricots, or fiber-rich zucchini. These items are just three options on this list of summer foods that are good for you. Better yet, make it a plan to eat certain healthy foods. Take a look at what’s ripe—eat berries as a snack for one week and peaches the next. As reported in Allure, research suggests that making food choices in advance can increase your likelihood of sticking with your diet goals. Before you go grocery shopping, check out this list of healthy summer fruits and new healthy summer recipes that release fat.
Drink more (water, that is)
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Make this summer the season that you finally start to hydrate enough. You’ll have more energy, you’ll eat less, your brain will work better—and that’s just a few of hydration’s many benefits. Carry a refillable water bottle with you everywhere you go, and sip often. This will help you cut back on sodas, beer, and wine, saving thousands of calories over the summer. And being low on fluids can lead your body to confuse thirst with hunger; next thing you know, you’re overeating and packing on pounds. The evidence is pretty clear—drink water, lose weight.
Take a hike
Hiking is more popular than ever before—no doubt thanks to stunning nature trails like these seven. In 2016, the National Park Service reported over 330 million recreational visits to their 58 national parks. According to Psychology Today, hiking can lower stress and reset the mind. See if any of these spectacular summer hikes are in your neighborhood or near your vacation destinations this summer. No? Find great hikes close by with help from the American Hiking Society or Trails.com. As a money-saving reminder, citizens with disabilities and members of the military have free access to national parks, and senior citizens can purchase a lifetime pass from the Department of Recreation for $10. If you volunteer at least 250 hours through a federal park organization, you can also gain free access. More information on access can be found at the National Parks site. Ready to hit the trail? Read these 21 essential hiking tips.
Research shows that people who eat in dim light linger over their food more, and that can lead to overeating. Celebrity health expert Mehmet Oz, MD (yep, Dr. Oz), told ABC News that he strongly recommends the benefits of eating under the sun. Hello, picnics and summer barbecues. Just be sure to keep nutrition in mind when you dine al fresco by doubling up on veggies instead of starchy sides. Remember that chicken and seafood can be just as yummy on the grill as a burger or a hot dog. Another benefit to eating outside? The pace. Dr. Oz advises taking advantage of the tendency to linger outside in the summer. Include a summer activity after your meal. Catch, anyone?
Reset your habits
If you mostly focus on getting in shape for the summer and let those notions slide the rest of the year, try leveraging summer months to build better habits to carry you through the winter. (Your skin needs a fresh start as well.) Bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin recommends looking for a clean slate start to keep your mind aware of a new season’s possibilities. Use the change in the weather as an excuse to shed old, unhealthy habits like late-night snacking or relying on soda to rehydrate. Now that summer’s here, you can close the kitchen at 8:00 PM and turn to seltzer to keep your fluids in balance. Sociologist and productivity expert Jan Yager, PhD, devised a list of questions to ask yourself if you want to truly accomplish your goals. This goes for weight loss, summer reading or anything you hope to achieve. Here is her list of questions to ask yourself—a great place to start is: "What is my purpose here on earth?" Pondering of our larger purpose might help us to make better choices to keep us healthy for living it out.
Take advantage of nice weather and leisure time
Since summer work schedules tend to be more relaxed, you can take advantage of your down time. Instead of endlessly scrolling through Facebook, try a half-hour long outdoor yoga class; choose a miniature golf trip with the family over binge-watching Netflix. Researchers from Maastricht University found that leisure time activity is a key element in maintaining a healthy weight, especially after substantial weight loss. If adding a new workout or activity feels like too much effort, try using summer’s slower pace to get off a subway stop before you have to or park your car further away from an entrance. Any movement helps.
Give yourself grace
Our health efforts are made more difficult when we punish ourselves for missteps like skipped workouts or over-indulging. Instead of feeling defeated or berating yourself, try being gentle with your inner thoughts. Maybe that means enjoying a popsicle, joining the kids on the trampoline or simply catching some rays by the pool. The key is finding balance. Independent personal trainer Liz Diamond helps her clients feel strong with guided strength training and personalized programs. She got into the business after her own weight loss journey. Diamond says, "I’ve realized that results are only achieved when you adapt an overall healthy lifestyle while allowing for room to live your life. If not, and it is an all or nothing thing, it is much more challenging to maintain."