Keep summer lifestyle year-round to improve health
Special to The Union
Getting to know …
Heather Lucas-Ross, MD
University of Nevada School of Medicine
Care Philosophy: I feel that my main role as a physician is as an educator and partner in health. I enjoy working collaboratively with patients to create the plan that best fits them.
Dignity Health Medical Group – Sierra Nevada
280 Sierra College Drive, Suite 120
Grass Valley, CA 95945
It’s summertime and the air is warm, the days are long, and we are all living our most relaxed, healthy life… OK, maybe that isn’t always the case, but there are many habits common in the summer that experts say would be beneficial to our health year-round.
Be more active
Whether it’s the warm weather or the longer days or the lure of the lakes and mountains, summertime tends to include increased activity for most people. And more activity is something the vast majority of us need.
“Regular activity is an important part of your overall health, for your cardiovascular system, mental health and to help prevent many diseases,” says Heather Lucas-Ross, MD, Family Practice physician with Dignity Health Medical Group – Sierra Nevada. “Even small steps toward moving more and moving more often are really helpful – just move more than you were before and you’re getting somewhere.”
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking, biking, dancing, tennis) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity (hiking uphill, running, swimming laps) every week.
Many activities recommended by the AHA are easier to do outdoors and so lend themselves to the summer season. When fall rolls around, look for ways to continue your activity of choice – whether that means finding a local gym or just braving cool water or rainy weather.
Protect the skin
Many people stock up on sunscreen around Memorial Day and then put it away after Labor Day. The American Academy of Dermatology reminds us that the sun’s rays are dangerous year-round and we should protect our skin regardless of what season it is.
“Unprotected exposure to the sun increases our risk for skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer,” says Dr. Lucas-Ross. “I see quite a bit of cancer and pre-cancer of the skin, and I tell my patients often to wear sunscreen (and to reapply often!) to help protect against further damage, even including things like wrinkles and sunspots.”
Eat more whole foods
When the seasons change, what we crave at mealtimes tends to change too. Gone are the heavy, comforting foods of winter and in their place are lighter, fresher meals.
Classic summertime foods like salads, fresh fruits, and grilled lean meats and fish are generally much more nutritious and better for our health.
“One of the best ways to eat a heart healthy diet is to try and ‘eat the rainbow,’” says Dr. Lucas-Ross. “When you eat a variety of colors, you’re getting a variety of nutrients and vitamins. Especially now in the summertime, this is the best time possible to take advantage of all of the great produce and try new things!”
While it can be more challenging to find a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables during winter months, it is worth the effort. Your best strategy is to shift your shopping list according to what is in season. If you are enjoying the fresh berries and corn of summer, look for apples, pears and squash in the fall. During the winter, citrus and greens tend to be more plentiful.
And don’t put away your grill in a month or two just because the weather changes. Grab an umbrella and a jacket and keep grilling! Fat falls away from meat during the grilling process and flavor is enhanced – a great bonus for anyone looking to eat healthier.
Finally, try to spread the relaxation and downtime associated with summer throughout the year.
Time away from the stress of work and time spent with family are two of the greatest gifts of the summer season. And yet, a 2014 Glassdoor study found that the average U.S. employee only takes half of his or her eligible vacation time. Numerous studies have found that vacations from work lead to decreased depression, less stress and improved productivity when you return.
“Summer is an opportunity to make the most of relaxation time, whether spent enjoying activities with family, enjoying the abundance of fruits and vegetables, or enjoying the beautiful geography of this great region we live in – or maybe a combination of all of the above,” says Dr. Lucas-Ross. “Embracing all those things is so good for your health – both mentally and physically – and can be something we do all year long.”
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