It’s a time of year most of us look forward to – long, light days, barbecues, holidays and fun with family and friends. This is also a great time to boost your wellbeing – the warmer weather can be a motivator to get fitter and eat nutritious seasonal food. But certain health niggles can arrive hand-in-hand with the summer. So try these tips to maximise summer’s wellbeing potential and avoid getting run-down – so you can sparkle all through the sunshine season...
1. Check your coals before cooking
Food poisoning cases almost double in the summer. And it’s thought barbecues are partly to blame – most of us aren’t used to cooking on them and that can make it difficult to judge when food’s ready and safe to eat. These are two simple tips: make sure coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you put meat on, and check food is piping hot all the way through before you eat.
2. Pollution-proof yourself
Did you know pollution is worse on still, sunny days? Sunlight reacts with particles emitted from vehicles, and if there’s no breeze, pollution hangs around. Avoid the worst of it by checking pollution reports and keeping to side streets in towns, which are less polluted than traffic-dense roads.
3. Have an active commute
Make the most of the weather by getting moving on your way to work or the shops. A 2014 study from the University of East Anglia found cycling or walking can help blitz stress and boost your mood, along with your fitness.
4. Zap summer colds
The same rules apply in the summer as in the winter – wash your hands regularly to avoid transferring cold bugs into your body when you touch your nose or eyes, and support your immune system with plenty of rest, stress management and a healthy diet. If you do pick up a summer cold, you could try hot water with lemon juice, ginger and Manuka honey. NICE guidelines recommend honey for soothing coughs, and a 2016 review of research showed Manuka has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. This paper also noted some preliminary research has suggested Manuka honey may have antiviral properties, potentially meaning it could help your body fight cold and flu bugs, although further studies are needed.1
5. Splash out
Get into swimming this summer – it’s a great low-impact exercise that works all your body’s major muscle groups without putting pressure on joints, and gives you a cardiovascular workout too. Consider taking your dip in cold water, such as in a lido or (if you’re swimming’s up to it) the sea or a lake. A recent paper following a case study found weekly cold-water swimming resolved her treatment-resistant depression.2
6. Think all-round sun protection
Remember to slather on sun cream but don’t fully rely on it – stay in the shade, and bear in mind your clothing can also help protect you. Dense cotton fabric in a dark colour gives the best UV protection, studies have shown, and don’t forget your hat and sunglasses.
7. Snack on seasonal berries
Compounds in berries such as raspberries and blackcurrants can help guard against high blood pressure, research has found – those eating the most anthocyanin-rich berries significantly slash their risk.3 Another study found eating three or more weekly servings of strawberries and blueberries could cut risk of heart attack by a third in women.4 Try topping a bowl of fresh berries with coconut yoghurt and a swirl of Manuka honey for a delicious sweet flavour.
1 Carter DA, Blair S, Cocketin NN et al. Therapeutic manuka honey: no longer so alternative. Front Microbiol. 2016; 7: 569.
2 Van Tulleken C et al. Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder. Case Reports 2018;2018:bcr-2018-225007.
3 Jennings A et al. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 96, Issue 4, October 2012, Pages 781–788
4 Cassidy A et al. High Anthocyanin Intake Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Young and Middle-Aged Women. Circulation. 2013;127:188–196