5 dos and don'ts for a healthy summer

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As Brits cross their fingers for the warmer weather to stick around, here are a few things to know before it sets in for good...

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Nature is in full bloom, strangers are smiling at you and, after months of neglect, the unmistakable smell of a freshly lit barbeque is coming from your neighbour’s garden – you guessed it; summer is almost here.

Breaking free from what has felt like an endless sentence of inclement weather, it’s almost time to enjoy some of the best Britain has to offer.

But while many of us are busy diarising the next get-together (“at yours or mine?”), it’s important to remember to look after our wellbeing; to take our foot off the gas when we need to so we’re not always going hell-for-leather.

"Although the foundations of wellbeing remain consistent throughout the year, there are certainly specific factors to consider during summer months,” says Jamie Monk, Head of Marketing and Partnerships at Vitality partner LIVE BRAVE.

“These include hydration levels, protecting your skin, maintaining a balanced diet and continuing to dedicate time to rest and relaxation.”

With that in mind, we’ve gathered Vitality’s in-house experts to make sure you’re enjoying the summer to its fullest.

Be safe in the sun

With the onset of hopefully hotter whether, it’s tempting to catch as many rays as possible. But being safe in the sun can prevent a host of diseases caused by too much exposure – not to mention the agony when your skin turns to tinge of reminiscent of a lobster.

Sunburn from UV rays causes damage to the skin’s DNA, which, over time, can trigger cells to grow uncontrollably and lead to skin cancer, or melanoma.

According to Vitality data, melanoma, skin and soft tissue cancers were the second most common cancer claim among women. Meanwhile, men under 50 were more likely to access care for melanoma than any other form of cancer.

5_dos_and_donts_for_a_healthy_summer_3_resized Dr Kiran Johal, a NHS doctor, says that it’s important to regularly examine our skin and keep a note of any new spots, lumps or moles, and keep an eye on any existing ones that change.

“Avoiding direct sun exposure during the hottest part of the day, this is usually between 11am and 3pm, during the summer months in the UK, is a good way to avoid overexposure,” she says.

“Regularly applying sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor of 30 to any areas not covered by suitable clothing, such as tight-weave clothing, is also recommended.”

Break out the BBQ

While we might think that summer is a time when we are all a little healthier, with lighter meals and salads on the menu, it is also a time we can slip into some unhealthy habits.

Barbeques are a healthy way to cook, but according to James Vickers, a Vitality expert and nutritionist, it’s the foods we cook on them that is often not.

“High amounts of red and processed meat can be detrimental to our health with higher risk of heart disease and obesity,” says James. “Barbeques can involve sugary sauces, and [supermarket marinades too] so trying not to have this too often can also help.”

James recommends switching out processed for fresh meat if possible and adding in a healthy mix of salads. “If I'm hosting a barbeque with friends, […] I will normally choose a joint of meat to cook slowly. This can be enjoyed as a kebab, on a bun or to top a salad. It is a good swap for processed meat.”

 

You could even try this with a vegetable, such as celeriac, cauliflower or a cabbage if you prefer. James also dares you to try cooking some other veggies on your BBQ to add another dimension. “Cooking veg on the barbeque can give new flavours, such as beetroot, asparagus or mushrooms.”


Vitality members with a qualifying plan, you could get up to 25% cashback on Waitrose & Partners Good Health food when you get active.

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Stay hydrated

We all know that drinking water is good for us... but do we know why? It’s true that we need water to survive, but we also need it to thrive.

“Adequate hydration supports regulation of body temperature, brain function and mood, as well as keeping our joints lubricated and digestive system working optimally,” says Jamie.

Physical discomfort can also arise from dehydration when we exercise, such as cramps, headaches, elevated pulse and dizziness. “A lack of adequate fluids can also impact blood circulation, which can significantly decrease out capability to physically perform,” James notes.

5_dos_and_donts_for_a_healthy_summer_2_resized There are some easy ways to make sure you’re keeping getting your daily intake of H20, however. Jamie suggests carrying water at all times, infusing it with flavour, such as cucumber or lemon, and keeping it cool, but importantly to avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol. “These act as a diuretic, which increases fluid loss,” he says.

And don’t forget to make an extra effort to hydrate before, during and after exercise.

Do exercise... but try not to overdo it

If you enjoy exercising, you’ll be excited at the prospect of being able to work out in the sun for a change. If you’re not so enamoured by exercise, summer is the perfect time to get started.

But before you lace up or clip in, Vitality’s Head of Physical Activity, Jonny Kibble, warns to not overdo it as the warmer weather sets in. “If you’re completing intense exercise outside, it may be a good idea to get this done earlier in the day or in the evening once the sun has gone down,” he says.

“If you can’t exercise either early or late for whatever reason, finding an air-conditioned gym (like one of Vitality’s gym partners) may be a great option.”

Exercise can, however, get put on the back burner as we swap our bench presses for sun loungers and kettle bells for cocktails. Jonny suggests exercising as a social activity if you’re keen to stay active.

“Getting social while exercising is also a great way of keeping in touch with friends and getting your training in too. Going for a run, swim or cycle with friends in the warm weather can be really fun,” he says.

Don't forget to prioritise your needs

It’s natural to want to grab hold of the summer months and never let them go. We can be guilty of booking up diaries months in advance, leaving no time for our own R&R.

Jamie suggests scheduling non-negotiable down-time will help maintain your balance, so when those social engagements come around, you’re feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy them.

“Practicing time management is also a really effective way to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Having a dedicated and organised schedule allows you to set realistic expectations and avoid overloading yourself,” he says.

Good quality sleep is also the key to ensuring you are managing your wellbeing. “Creating a conducive sleep environment will only help you feel on top form even more each day,” adds Jamie.


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If you’re a qualifying Vitality health insurance member, log into Member Zone to find out how you can use the Peppy service.

Or if you'd like to find out more about Vitality health insurance, visit vitality.co.uk.

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