Did winter leave you feeling sluggish and unmotivated about your health? Refresh and reset your body for the warmer months with these easy tips.
Schedule your checkups
It's never too late to take control of your health, and that includes making sure you hit all your critical medical screenings and exams. "You don't have to wait until you're sick to see your doctor. I recommend preventative care visits with a primary care doctor each year, and it's important to schedule them out rather than waiting until the last minute," says Qandeel Soomro, MD, an internist at Medical Offices of Manhattan in New York City. Most health insurance companies should fully cover several preventative health services (meaning no out-of-pocket costs) that are critical to women's health and well being, including an annual physical, mammography, cervical cancer screening, contraception, testing for infections, breastfeeding services and supplies, and osteoporosis screening. To make the most of your time with your doctor, avoid these 10 things you should never do before your appointment.
Adopt a sleep ritual
Spring and summer's longer days are generally a plus, but they can make it harder to fall asleep, especially for those who have an earlier bedtime. If you have trouble unwinding, try diffusing a calming essential oil or dabbing a drop of a specially formulated sleep blend such as Ravenscroft Escentials Good Nite Aroma Body Drops under your nose just before bed. Studies show that the scent of lavender can decrease heart rate and blood pressure to put you in a more relaxed state and may even help you sleep deeper.
Dry air and cold temperatures can turn skin into an itchy, flaky mess. Get it summer-ready by exfoliating. "Exfoliation is the first key step to rejuvenating your skin and achieving a satiny smooth look post-winter," says Andrew Ordon, MD, plastic surgeon and co-host of The Doctors. "I recommend taking a warm bath or shower and using a product like Crepe Erase Exfoliating Body Polish, which uses rice bran wax and lactic acid to gently buff away dead skin cells." Here are 9 more smart skin habits dermatologists start every spring.
Protect yourself from summer pests
The number of cases of vector-borne diseases—those spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas—more than tripled between 2004 and 2016, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keep skeeters at bay by wearing long sleeves and pants whenever possible or applying a repellent with DEET. If you prefer a more holistic approach, try simply swatting those buggers away: New research out of the University of Washington found that mosquitoes learn to associate a particular odor with an unpleasant sensation, like being swatted—as a result, they avoid that scent from thereon out, much like they do with the repellent DEET.
Practice mindful eating
Spruce up your eating habits by tackling one common bad habit: mindless eating. Studies suggest being mindful while you dine may help you eat less and even lose weight. "A lot of us are guilty of eating while we're at our desks, watching TV, or just bored, so we're not really paying attention to what we're putting in our bodies or how much we're consuming," says Joyce Faraj, PhD, RDN, a nutritionist at Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut. Try to only eat when you're hungry; focus on the colours, smells, flavours, and textures of what you're noshing on; and take a break when you feel satisfied—it takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to send the signal to your brain that you're full, she says.
Choose the right shoes
Summer footwear is among the worst for your feet, but many people are still likely to sacrifice comfort for fashion. Silvia Arroyo, DPM, a Kaiser Permanente foot and ankle specialist in Baldwin Park, California, says it's important to know which is the better of two evils. When choosing between loafers and flats, go with a rubber-soled loafer, which can provide some arch support and better absorb shock from walking on the pavement, preventing bunions, blisters, and pain. If you're torn between heels and wedges, go with a wider wedge that's not too tall; this reduces the pressure high heels put on your feet, back, and joints. And between slip on slides and flip-flops, flip-flops with a thicker sole are the winner—they'll provide a bit of arch support, which the flat-as-a-pancake varieties won't. Find out how to prevent and fix common summer foot problems.
Suds up your hands
There's nothing worse than getting that dreaded "changing of the seasons" cold. Protect yourself by being especially vigilant about hand washing—scrub all surfaces with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom or being in public. Avoid touching your face, especially the nose and mouth, as this provides germs easy access to get inside. And if using hand sanitizer, Charles "Dr. Germ" Gerba, MD, microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, recommends Zoono, which he says promises to protect your hands from germs for up to 24 hours after applying.
Power up your yoga routine
Boost your yoga time by incorporating a mind-clearing scent into the mix. "A blend of sandalwood, frankincense, and myrrh are used by yoga practitioners for quieting the mind chatter," says Ginger Ravenscroft, aromatherapy expert and founder of Ravenscroft Escentials in Grants Pass, Oregon. Yoga has been shown to reduce blood pressure and protect against or ease chronic pain, and a new study by University of Connecticut researchers suggests it may help post-menopausal women maintain muscle mass.
Evaluate your pantry
Many pantry staples such as bread, cereal, and condiments like ketchup and pre-made salad dressing can hide a sneaky load of sodium, sugar, and preservatives. Choose condiments that say "low sodium" or "no sugar added" on the label (even Heinz now offers a "no sugar added" ketchup) and make your own dressing by whisking together olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Opt for a cleaner loaf of bread, such as those made by La Brea Bakery, which also offers gluten-free varieties. Don't miss these 15 other ways to spring clean your diet.
Refresh your workout
If you lapsed into your exercise routine for a few months, be sure to ease back in to avoid injuring yourself. "Warm up and don't go fast and furious right out of the gate," says Jimmy McKay, PT, DPT, a physical therapist and director of communications at FOX Rehabilitation in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. "Take the first ten minutes of any workout to start moderately, which means you're able to have a conversation while moving. Then, ramp up to a point where your breathing is laboured and you can only get a few words out before taking another breath." Check out these 10 easy tricks to shed pounds this summer.
Set a social media curfew
Social platforms can be a great way to keep up with friends, family, and the news—but too much digital time can take a toll on your mental and emotional health, says Steve Levine, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and founder and CEO of Actify Neurotherapies. That's especially true during the summer, when you may start to feel envious of all those gorgeous vacation pics. In fact, one study by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the more time young adults spent on social media, the more likely they were to be depressed. Cut back by packing your schedule with social engagements, exercise time, and picking up a new hobby.
Take a look at your personal care routine
Winter makes it easy to lapse on everyday habits such as daily flossing or sun protection. Reset your routine by applying sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every morning and committing to brushing twice a day and flossing once daily.
Embrace plant-based eating
You don't need to become a strict vegan to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet, which include getting your necessary doses of vital nutrients such as fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, and inflammation-blasting antioxidants. Designate one day a week as "meat-free" and pile your plate with fruits and veggies, whole grains, and plant-based proteins such as beans or legumes, tempeh, or meat-alternatives that actually taste and feel like meat, such as Field Roast. Summer is the perfect time to serve up a giant salad for dinner or experiment with cold, vegetable soups like gazpacho.
Sip skinnier cocktails
Alcohol is a sneaky source of calories, but there are ways to more smartly imbibe. Try these beach bod-friendly drinks, or choose a cleaner wine such as FitVine, which makes vino that's lower in calories, carbs, and sulfites than other varieties.
Tackle your chores
Spring cleaning your home will help you spring clean your body. That's because toxins can hide everywhere from your dust to your kitchen cabinets. Look out for these 11 ways your house may be making you sick.
Try a meal delivery service
Meal prep is a good way to ensure you stay on a healthy track all week. But let's face it—it's hard to find the time to do so every single week, especially when your active kids are out of school for the summer or you're packing for vacation. Don't be afraid to try out a meal delivery service for those hectic times. Look for ones that cater to your dietary needs; Green Chef offers vegan, Paleo, Keto, and gluten-free options, while Sun Basket has heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly choices (plus plenty of others!).
Clean up your commute
If you feel like your commute is putting a damper on your health, freshen it up. Take a different route to work—even if it's slightly longer, the extra time will allow you to reflect or listen to a podcast as you prepare to face the day. If possible, consider biking to work or the train station. Don't worry about getting too sweaty; there are now electric bikes, like Trek Bikes, that allows you to peddle faster and with less effort to cover more ground.
Ditch the potato chips and reach for ones made of lentils or quinoa, which deliver a bit of protein, fibre, and other nutrients while you snack (Simply 7 or Lundberg Family Farms are clean options.) If popcorn is your thing, try a lighter variety such as Angie's Boomchickapop—the sea salt flavour is just 35 calories a cup! Don't miss these other ways to spring clean your body before the summer.
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