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Tips for being healthy and avoiding summer weight gain

Choose a healthy diet. Green is good and it helps to avoid processed foods.

By Jessica Smith, brought to you by Kaiser Permanente

Staying healthy is a year-round activity, but sometimes certain seasons can encourage people to make a change for the better. Summer, with its sunny skies and warm weather, sends an encouraging message to people cooped up inside — come out and enjoy the fresh air.

Not only is it fun to be active during the summer, but it's good for your health, preventing weight gain and the varying complications that accompany it. These complications include worsening arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, risk of diabetes and cancer, depression and more.

"When people gain weight, their organs do not work as efficiently," says Jeannine Benson, primary care physician at Kaiser Permanente in Edwards. This includes the lungs, which are especially vital at high altitude.

Following are several tips on avoiding weight gain and staying in shape this summer.

Slip light exercise into your daily routine

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Exercise doesn't necessarily mean joining a gym — there are myriad ways to throw in some easy exercise elements into everyday life. Little steps such as marching in place at your desk, walking up and down the stairs a few times at work or simply going on a short walk during break time can have an added benefit.

Benson also recommends choosing something you love to do. "If it's punishment to go to the gym and work out for an hour, figure something out to do that's fun," she says. This could be walking, biking or even just gardening.

"Gardening is great exercise," Bensons says, "and just getting outside and playing with kids, taking a dance class, those kinds of things, are great ways to keep active that tend to be more fun than running on the treadmill in the gym."

She also added that anyone with an existing chronic medical condition should speak with their doctor before starting something new. Then they can receive recommendations on what types of exercise is best for them, and how much of it they should take on.

Warm up and stretch

Everyone should do some kind of warm-up before physical activity, but especially those who may be getting into it after having been inactive for a period of time. Jumping into exercise without warming up could result in strained or pulled muscles, knee injuries or other issues, which would then keep you from your newly created exercising goal.

Benson also reminds exercisers to be aware of their hydration levels, and choose shoes with good arch support and comfortable clothing.

Set small goals

Unlike what many people have come to expect from a life of smartphone apps and internet connection, exercise doesn't always create instant gratification or immediately recognizable results.

Set small, achievable goals for yourself when it comes to fitness. Don't try to do 20 push-ups in a row, but start with two, or even one. Then a few weeks later, add two more, and so on. "Try to start moderately, and as you get stronger, increase what you do," says Benson.

Make your exercise functional

Many basic exercises are useful in that they target several muscle groups at once. It helps to focus on functional exercise, chosen with the purpose of making certain movements easier, whether that's kneeling down on the floor with kids or grandkids, or effortlessly lifting your carry-on luggage into the overhead compartment on an airplane.

Simple exercises like pushups, sit-ups, lunges and squats can be done anywhere and don't require special equipment to perform. Benson recommends mixing up your routine as well — if you do yoga one day, try biking the next, or taking a long hike, to work different muscle groups, or the same ones differently.

Choose a healthy diet

Benson's biggest recommendation to having a healthy diet — stay away from processed foods. This means fast food and most packaged food, plus anything that has a lot of preservatives.

Green is good, Benson says, so vegetables are always a great option, as well as fresh fruit. Some frozen and canned vegetables may be all right, though she emphasizes that people should read labels to check on preservatives and salt levels.

Benson also recommends that people cut out sweetened beverages completely, such as juices, soda and sports drinks, and replace them with water, non-fat milk and healthier options.

Find your health buddy

"People tend to stick with stuff if they have friends or family that join them," Benson says. She recommends inviting others along on walks and bike rides, or whatever activity is your current physical exercise of choice, as it holds you accountable to someone other than yourself.