Summer break is a great time to set new goals! You’ve just finished a hectic semester ridden with sleepless nights, large cups of coffee, and delivery pizza – now you can finally relax and enjoy the warm weather. Why not use some of that extra free time to commit to a healthier lifestyle this summer? Now that you’re into a summer routine, you’ve got nearly eight weeks to develop some healthy habits so that you start the fall semester off on the right foot. Here are five simple changes to make to your lifestyle:
1. Skip the sugar-loaded drinks and stick to water.
It’s important to stay hydrated year-round, but especially during the hot summer months. Instead of reaching for a can of soda or a sugary fruit juice, grab a bottle of water. Not only will you reduce your calorie intake, but drinking water has also been proven to boost your metabolism and energy levels, improve brain function, and prevent headaches and hangovers.
If you insist that plain ol’ water is too drab for your taste buds, try infusing your water with fruit! Cut up a few pieces of your favorite fruit (try watermelon & mint, or cucumber & lime), add to a pitcher with water and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
2. Eat breakfast – no excuses!
Now that you’re home for the summer, you likely have more time in the morning to eat breakfast as well as access to a kitchen, which you may not have had if you lived on campus during the school year. This means that you really have no reason to skip breakfast – not that you ever should! Studies have shown that eating breakfast regularly can improve your memory, reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and help you lose weight.
If you’re not typically hungry in the morning, start small by drinking a glass of water and having half a cup of yogurt with a piece of fruit. If you wake up with an appetite, try an omelet with chopped veggies and reduced fat cheese. Remember to be careful about what you choose for breakfast: a double chocolate chip muffin with a large caramel latte is not the right breakfast choice if you want to feel alert and energized throughout the day.
3. Step outside and be active.
I know how tempting it can be to sit inside on the couch all day – you don’t always have the luxury of spending your free time binge-watching Netflix shows during the semester. However, it won’t be summer forever, so take advantage of the weather and fit some outdoor activities into your schedule! How much physical activity should you be getting? The USDA recommends 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity – that’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. It can be as easy as briskly walking the dog or playing outside with younger siblings. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can try going for a run in your local park or doing some research to find out if there are any outdoor yoga or Pilates classes in your area.
4. Choose healthy snacks over unhealthy ones.
Try to find snack alternatives with protein, nutrients, whole grains, natural sugars, or healthy fats that you enjoy as much or even more than carb-loaded junk food (it’s easier than you think). Not only will a healthy snack be better for your health, but it will be more satisfying and keep your energy levels up rather than leaving you hungry and causing you to crash. Some of my favorite snacks: apple slices with almond butter, baby carrots with hummus, whole grain crackers with string cheese, and Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with blueberries and granola.
5. Get enough sleep.
Now that you aren’t pulling all-nighters for any big exams or research papers, this should be easy. The average college student needs 8 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sufficient sleep can lead to reduced efficiency, concentration, memory, and logical reasoning, as well as cause problems with your blood pressure and hormone functions. So make sure you catch your Z’s this summer! If you develop a consistent sleep schedule during the summer, as well as the rest of the health habits mentioned above, maintaining a healthy lifestyle when the semester starts should be a breeze.
July 7, 2015
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