Summer is the perfect time to improve your physical health. Check out these sixvideas for having fun AND improving your health this summer.
Setting goals for our physical health is just as important as setting goals for our emotional health. This month’s Self-Care Sunday series is filled with hacks to help you set physical health goals and meet them in creative ways.
The Song of My Summers
“The day’s a wastin’,” my dad’s voice thundered from the kitchen.
I groaned and squinted at my alarm. Six o’clock.
“Time to roll out of bed, the day’s already half over!” His voice had moved closer to our bedroom door.
I pulled the covers over my head.
“The garden needs weeding, time to get up and at ‘em!” he banged on our bedroom door, waiting to hear a verbal confirmation to his enthusiastic demands to get out of bed.
The banging continued. “I’m awake,” I grunted, hoping to make the noise and chipper voice disappear.
“We start in thirty minutes!”
I groaned. The first day of summer vacation deserved hours of leisurely sleep, a late breakfast, and riding my horse all over creation. Evidently my goals for a wonderful summer and my dad’s goals for a wonderful summer had nothing in common.
An hour later I grabbed a hoe and took my frustrations out on the weeds in the garden. Before long, the cool morning air and sun baked earth smell soothed me. Birdsong filled my ears, and I could almost taste fresh corn on the cob as I turned the soil around each fledgling corn plant.
Occasionally I’d sneak over to the rows of glistening strawberries and pop a sun-warmed berry into my mouth. Waking up early and working in the garden had its advantages.
“All done for the day!” Dad called, and the four of us kids scattered to follow our individual pursuits. My older sister headed for our room and a pile of good books. My younger siblings dashed to put on their swimsuits. I headed for the barn where I stabled my horse.
Never a Dull Moment in the Summer
From my earliest memories, summers included Dad’s list of things to do followed by hours of riding my horse, reading books, and games of kick-the-can late into the gloaming. On weekends we’d ride bikes after church or spend the weekend on backpacking adventures.
If you want to improve your physical health, summer presents the perfect time to start. Sunshine and activity go together like peanut butter and chocolate. You don’t need an expensive gym membership to get addicted to activity in the summer time.
Remember gaining good physical health requires a journey, not a sprint. Start the summer with new routines to help you start your baby steps to better health.
1. Dig and Pull
Gardening has health benefits most of us don’t think about (until we spend too much time in the garden and our legs ache the next day). We bend and twist, dig and pull, all without trying to follow an aerobics instructor. I spent the day cleaning out the flower beds in front of my in-law’s house and discovered that I’d burned over a thousand calories.
Gardening has other health benefits, according to Kim Hayes in an article from AARP
“A study in the Netherlands, cited by CNN, suggests that gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”Kim Hayes
Lower cortisol levels help us lose weight, too, which makes gardening a win-win situation.
If you have little ones (or older ones), enlist their help (just not at six in the morning on the first day of summer). Let them help you start plants inside in the spring, and decide which vegetables or flowers they’d like to plant.
If you like to garden, but don’t have space, you can investigate community gardens in your area or try container gardening.
2. Take a Hike
In addition to strengthening your core, elevating your heart rate, and providing a good source of weight-bearing exercise, hiking has a hidden attraction that scientists have just started to study. According to Judy Corliss of Harvard Medical School,
“A number of small studies hint that spending time in green space — nature preserves, woodlands, and even urban parks — may ease people’s stress levels. Giving the growing consensus that stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease risk, anything you can do to mitigate stress is likely helpful.”Judy Corliss
Hiking gives you the double benefit of reducing stress two ways—through exercise and green time. If you want to increase the cardio benefit (and keep yourself steady on uneven trails), buy a pair of trekking poles. Don’t worry, trekking poles will give you a certain, ‘serious hiker’ cachet.
Start slowly on local trails, and work your way up to longer hikes. If you have a family, plan an adventure with them. This post will help you figure out what to take with you on longer hikes.
Grand Canyon, anyone?
3. Ride a Bike
Grab your Huffy from the garage, pop on a helmet, and you’re good to go. Riding a bicycle will benefit your physical health regardless of your bike brand, type, or speed. Of course, the more you push yourself, the greater your cardiovascular benefits.
Danielle Underferth reports for MD Anderson Cancer Centers,
“For anyone with back pain, arthritis or damaged joints in the lower body, cycling may be a good choice. Most of your body weight is supported by the seat, so it’s low-impact. For some, cycling may even improve joint health.”
While Pedro can longer run or walk great distances due to neuropathy from cancer, he rides a mountain bike like a beast. When he doesn’t ride (he has an old bike on an indoor trainer so he can ride daily), his knees and hip start to hurt.
For safety reasons, always wear a helmet and never plug your ears with earphones. Whether you ride on the road or on a trail, you won’t know what’s coming at you around the corner if you can’t hear it first.
You can cycle alone, with a group, or with your family (or all three).
4. Try the Second Most Popular Sport in the United States
Yes. Birdwatching qualifies as a sport, and everyone’s doing it (not just retired folks). Think of birdwatching as a protracted treasure hunt where the treasure flits around in the treetops and skulks in the bushes.
Birdwatching probably won’t elevate your heart rate to aerobic levels, though. Unless you see a rare bird or have to hike up hills to find your ‘treasure.’ But it does provide weight-bearing exercise and time outside soaking up vitamin D.
I like to combine birdwatching with hiking and photography—a great way to meet your self-care goals in multiple domains (physical health and avocational balance). You’ll also meet all kinds of interesting people if you hike around with binoculars hanging around your neck.
5. On the Water
Summer provides the perfect temperatures for enjoying time on (or in) the water. Everything from swimming at the local pool to learning to paddleboard will provide adventures in improving your physical health.
We love spending lazy afternoons in our canoe. Sometimes, we rent kayaks and explore the ocean or estuaries. Playing in the ocean also wears me out—who knew that bodysurfing could make you sore the next day?
Snorkeling in tropical waters remains my all-time favorite water activity, though. I could spend an entire day swimming around fish-watching. I learned the hard way the importance of wearing sunblock or sun-blocking clothing while out in the ocean. Make sure you cover up!
6. Take Advantage of Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Summer means fresh fruits and vegetables—and less expensive ones, too. Take advantage of sales at your local fruit stands, farmer’s markets, and CSA (community supported agriculture) program.
In order to have good physical health, we have to feed ourselves real foods that nourish our bodies.Check out these six ways to improve your physical health this summer Click To Tweet
What’s Your Favorite?
All of these things will help you improve your physical health in fun, stress-free ways. If you stress about them, you won’t fun and you won’t continue, so choose activities that appeal to you.
In order to enjoy the health benefits of summer activities, though, you have to schedule them into your calendar. If you don’t, you’ll end up at the end of summer wondering why you never went for that hike or learned to paddleboard.
What is your favorite summer activity and how does it improve your physical health?