01 Jul July 1: The Start of the Second Half.
Do you love the promise of a new year? I do. It offers possibility, hope, new beginnings. It’s July 1 and we are beginning the second half of the year. I say toss some confetti, light a sparkler, and take on the next 6 months like you mean it. I’ve included a super-easy salad recipe to get your started.
Northern New Year
If you live in the northern hemisphere, the new year comes during the dead of winter. The farther north you are from the equator, the colder and shorter your days are. Weather conditions may make it hard or even dangerous to go for a walk, ride, or run. To this end, gyms are packed with well-intended people committed to living a new, healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, we know that for most people this doesn’t turn out so well.
Here’s where celebrating the 1/2 Year can serve you well. Long days make it easier to get outside before or after work. Roads and paths aren’t choked with ice and snow. Rivers, lakes, and local pools are available to stretch your swimming muscles. Despite the fact that we often think of summer as a time of endless days at the beach, or at backyard cookouts playing whiffle ball and corn hole, it’s estimated that the average American still spends 90% of their life indoors, and that number increases as we age. Honestly, if you aren’t getting outside during the summer, when are you planning to get out?
It’s Not Just About the Exercise
Lots of people get plenty of exercise, but most of it is indoors. If you opt to workout at the gym and work in an office all day, I’m talking to you. If you or a loved one competitively participates in indoor sports like basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, or cheer, is a professional or pre-professional dancer or coaches or trains any of these activities, I’m talking to you. It’s easy to mistake activity with total health, but we see some significant health and injury issues from active people who don’t get enough healthy sun exposure. If you, your kiddo, your students, or your athletes are at summer camps or intensives, remind them to participate in outdoor activities when possible and to make a concerted effort to get outside for a dose of daily sun.
If you live in an exceptionally hot or humid climate, it may be difficult or dangerous to get outside, except during the early morning or evening hours. Then again, you probably live closer to that 31st parallel where winters are mild and the sun’s vertex makes Vitamin D production possible during more months than your more northerly counterparts.
Getting outside gives you a chance to dose up on Vitamin D. Vitamin D serves a number of roles including bone health, immunity, and mental health. The skin not only converts cholesterol to Vitamin D with UV exposure, but produces endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that give us a sense of well-being. If you live north of the 32nd parallel, your window for getting ample sun exposure to meet your needs is limited to the months of March through October. After that, the vertex is such that we don’t get the exposure necessary to make this hormone-like vitamin. Though we can’t store up the endorphins, since Vitamin D is fat soluble, we can store some of it.
There aren’t many food sources that naturally provide Vitamin D and they are mostly limited to fatty fish, whole eggs, and mushrooms, and though they are great food choices that I recommend, they still don’t give you an adequate intake of Vitamin D, nor the endorphin boost. Your best source of Vitamin D is sunshine.
It’s Day One, so what about taking up some seasonal changes? These don’t have to be heavy-duty commitments, just some easy shifts to maximize your summer and get some great health benefits along the way. Choose to go on a morning run rather than use the treadmill. Walk to lunch and dine al fresco. Ride your bike. Enjoy a day at the beach and play in the sand or toss the frisbee. Take the boat out and go for a swim in the lake. Go to the neighborhood pool and splash around with your friends or kids. If you are a dancer, give your feet a sun bath. Not only does it help your body to build Vitamin D, the exposure can help with healing wounds, like the kind you get from dancing en pointe. Tend to your garden. If you don’t have a garden, spend a morning at your local farmers market.
Speaking of Your Farmers Market . . .
Summer is a fantastic time to enjoy seasonal produce. Different fruits and vegetables come into season during different months, but in July we can often enjoy cherries, summer squash, zucchini, blueberries, corn, greens, and strawberries. Perhaps part of your half-year health strategy could include more seasonal produce. I’ve included a Blueberry Kale salad recipe below. Feel free to swap out the kale for a green you have in your garden. If you have fresh strawberries in abundance, add them! They can also act as a substitute for the blueberries. If your beets come with the greens still attached, clean them well and then add them in place of part or all of your greens. Beet greens are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, and iron, minerals often lacking in most diets.
Choose Your Change
If you are ready to make changes that will take you to the new year feeling your best, start now. Simple strategies like taking an evening walk after dinner can make a difference in how you look and feel. Eating more fresh produce while it’s abundant and at it’s peak for flavor and nutrition is a short-term commitment to improve your health and performance. If you are interested in taking a more individualized approach, contact me for more details and be sure to sign up for my newsletter for more recipes, tips, and bonus offers.