Summer is here, and with it comes so many possibilities for outdoor activities. But the season also brings sun, heat, insects, disrupted child-care routines and other headaches.
It's no wonder, then, that one might actually feel less inclined to exercise, eat well or maintain an otherwise healthy lifestyle over the summer months. Experts say, however, that viewing summer as a respite from wellness could have lasting effects on your overall health. We asked Angela Lemond, a registered dietitian nutritionist and president of the Texas Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition, and Colleen Palomaa, the fitness manager at Vida Metropole in Washington, for the most common excuses that they get from patients and trainees — and how they respond.
'I'm on vacation'
When the weather is nice and the kids are home from school, people tend to want to take some time off, travel someplace new and let loose a little. But according to Lemond, some people take it too far.
"A lot of people want to overindulge," Lemond says. "They want to drink, and they want to eat — they want to have no cares whatsoever."
You can tell a lot about someone's lifestyle by observing their vacation habits, Lemond adds. Someone who eats healthy and exercises while they're traveling probably has positive wellness habits at home, too. She recommends keeping up a balanced diet and drinking in moderation when on vacation.
There are plenty of ways to stay active on vacation without feeling like you're doing work. Palomaa suggests hiking or beach volleyball. But even if those options aren't available at your destination, she recommends that vacationers do simple exercises like yoga and running — which don't require equipment — wherever they go.
'It's time to enjoy myself'
Palomaa has trained many people who say that their goal is to get fit for the summer so that they might show off their flat stomachs and chiseled arms at the beach. But once summer arrives, they revert to their original habits.
"Exercise is not all about vanity," she says.
Plus, if you allow yourself to regress to a lower level of fitness, it's more work to regain your beach body once the next summer season rolls around.
'It's too hot outside'
It's the classic summer excuse, especially if your house or apartment has air conditioning. And it's certainly true that you'll need to stay extra cautious about hydration, body temperature, fatigue, sunburn and the like when exercising in the heat.
For those who might want to avoid these hassles, Palomaa has two ways to circumvent the heat: swimming and morning exercise. Plenty of pools, even outdoor ones, have lap lanes.
As for morning exercise, Palomaa doesn't believe that the extra hours of sunlight should go to waste. The relative coolness of those early hours isn't the only reason to exercise in the early morning: Studies show that kicking off the day with a workout boosts your metabolism.
Palomaa offers this advice for getting yourself out of bed: Go to sleep early. Set multiple alarms far away from your bed — so you'll have to physically get up to shut them off — and make them loud and jarring so they aren't simply incorporated into your dreams. In her experience, it takes just two weeks before the earlier wake-up and workout start to feel natural and habitual.
'Working out interferes with happy hour'
Palomaa says she's been shocked by the number of people who complain that their workout regimen impedes their social life in the summer. The logic follows that better weather brings more people to bars and restaurants after work ends. And, with some jobs, work lets out early on Fridays, leaving the afternoon for merriment.
A little extra food and drink can't hurt, Palomaa says, but she advises her trainees to bring their friends, family and co-workers to the gym, not the bars. A group workout or exercise class could maintain the social aspect while encouraging an active lifestyle. Even doing this just one out of every three happy hours, Palomaa says, could make a noticeable difference.
'The kids are home from school'
"Not enough time" is a year-round excuse, but it attacks most vigorously through the summer, Lemond says. For families, this is often due to the presence of children in the house. Summer vacation can throw carefully planned child-care schedules out the window, and it can be difficult to maintain your own good habits when you're trying to keep your kids in line.
As for the kids themselves, Lemond, who is board-certified in pediatric nutrition, says children whose parents don't encourage them to participate in more physical activities often turn to screens: Netflix, television, Youtube, cellphones, video games. With regular sports teams and activities on hiatus for the summer, that can lead to lots of sitting around.
"If you're not prepared and geared up for that, those kids can come away from the summer with some weight gain," Lemond says.
Be active as a family. Night swimming is something that Lemond and her children enjoy together (and also a good way to beat the heat). Geocaching, an activity that involves using GPS to unearth caches all over the world, has also been a hit with Lemond's clients. Its contemporary iteration — the newly popular Pokémon Go — is even a worthwhile alternative for getting the kids to spend some time outside.
"If you want your kids to be healthy, you have to be living it yourselves."