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Health Hotline: Healthy summer habits can lead to more energy for warm weather fu

By Dr. Less Riess

Summer arrives in the Northland and many of us are anxious to enjoy the longer days and warm weather. If you’re like most people, packing activity after activity into your days (and nights) can leave you feeling exhausted. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to boost your summer energy and get the most out of everything summer has to offer.

One way to start is by drinking plenty of water. The human body is made up of approximately 60 percent water, so the necessity of replenishing this vital fluid is understandable. In addition, heat and sun exposure during the summer months can increase the amount of water our bodies need. Dehydration can cause fatigue; it also zaps energy and impairs physical performance, alertness and the ability to concentrate. Carry a water bottle with you and sip throughout the day.

Energy comes from the food we eat; it’s the fuel that keeps us going. Fresh fruits and vegetables are in season. Enjoy them! Go for whole grains and complex carbohydrates; they take longer to digest and help prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids can also boost energy.

Stay away from processed sugar and refined carbohydrates. These foods provide a quick energy spike that just as quickly plummets, leaving you feeling lethargic.

Make time for regular meals. Consider eating smaller meals, but more often. A large meal can fill the stomach and drain your energy.

During the summer months, you’re probably spending more time outdoors; don’t forget to use sunscreen. Sunburn can cause dehydration, thereby stealing energy. It also causes damage to the skin, which results in your body going into a defensive healing mode resulting in fatigue and tiredness.

In addition to sunburn, you want to avoid becoming overheated in the summer sun. If you are active or exercising in the heat, make sure you are doing so with a bottle of water or energy drink nearby. If you do feel yourself becoming fatigued in the heat, seek shade, shelter or preferably an air-conditioned space. Severe overheating can lead to a condition called heat stroke, which is serious and requires medical attention. Symptoms include a body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, fainting, confusion, disorientation, seizures and unconsciousness. If any of these occur, seek medical attention immediately.

Attitude can affect energy. Recognize that you may be busy, but you are busy doing things you enjoy. In addition, realize that you don’t have to do it all. A fun day at the beach (or ballpark or in your own backyard) is a fun day, with or without the extra evening activity. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, give yourself a break and save the rest of the itinerary for tomorrow.

This leads to the next healthy summer habit: Get enough sleep. You might want to go, go, go, but the truth is you won’t enjoy anything if you are overtired. People who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to accidents, have trouble concentrating and experience overall exhaustion. If you want to maintain your energy this summer, get a good night’s sleep.

Another way to enhance energy? Get physical. Whether it’s inside at the gym or outside playing a game of pickup basketball with your kids, even a low-intensity exercise like walking can increase your energy level and decrease fatigue.

Lower your stress level. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Being aware of your stressors and taking steps to decrease or avoid them is the first step. Often our stress comes from our job. Try to leave work at the office. Turn off your phone at night. Refrain from checking your emails every five minutes. The work will still be there in the morning. To further combat stress, find an activity that you find relaxing and take a 30-minute mental vacation. Listen to music, take a hot shower, enjoy a leisurely walk in the woods, read a good book or do whatever happens to be your de-stressing hobby of choice.

Take your de-stressing to the next level with laughter. Laughter causes positive physiological changes to the body. When we laugh we stretch muscles in the face and body. Pulse and blood pressure increase and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to body tissues. More oxygen equals more energy.

Summer is a great time to experience all the Northland has to offer. Increased sunshine, warmer temperatures and an abundance of summertime activities can increase risk for fatigue and exhaustion. By paying attention to water intake and other healthy lifestyle habits, we can all enjoy the benefits of summer every day — from now until the snow flies.