While some people talk about getting a “beach body” for summer, fitness is more than just a matter of aesthetics – it can mean the difference between a long life and premature death.
Studies show 80 percent or more of premature chronic conditions, such as heart attack, stroke or diabetes, are caused by modifiable lifestyle choices, as opposed to being caused by genetic factors. Yet many Americans lack an understanding of the connection between lifestyle choices and chronic health conditions. A recent UnitedHealthcare survey found that just 16 percent of Americans correctly recognized that 80 percent or more of premature chronic conditions are caused by modifiable lifestyle choices, such as risk factors like smoking or obesity, not genetics.
To help make your health a priority this summer, here are tips to consider:
Walk This Way: Studies have shown walking more and sitting less may help people maintain a healthier weight, ward off depression and prevent serious health issues like heart disease. And a recent report concluded that walking can help curb sweet cravings, boost the immune system and ease joint pain. To make walking more effective, think FIT, which stands for frequency (500 steps within seven minutes six times per day), intensity (3,000 steps within 30 minutes each day) and tenacity (at least 10,000 total steps per day).
Get Outside (Safely): The popularity of smartphones and streaming TV has made it easy – and entertaining – to stay inside. In fact, recent research has found that some people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, limiting exposure to daylight and fresh air. This can have negative consequences, including for children and their eye health. Studies have found that exposure to outdoor light may help reduce the risk of nearsightedness, the inability to see far off objects clearly. To gain the potential benefits of being outdoors while helping stay safe, children and adults should wear sunglasses that block both UV rays and blue light, as well as apply sunscreen to help reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Maintain Your Hearing Health: Summer is a popular time for sporting events and music concerts, which can lead to exposure to loud sounds. Crowd noise at sporting events can exceed 90 decibels, while music concerts can reach 110 decibels. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can contribute to gradual hearing loss, so it is a good idea to use ear protection when seeing your favorite team or band. Likewise, extended listening to music or digital content through headphones or earbuds may damage hearing overtime. To help prevent that, turn the volume on your electronic device to 60 percent and listen for no longer than 60 minutes at a time, and never listen to earbuds while using power tools or a lawn mower.
Stay Safe Overseas: With people heading out on summer vacations, it is important to recognize that up to 20 percent of travelers suffer an illness or injury while on vacation. Before traveling out of your home state, review your health plan and understand what it covers, including if you have access to a national or local network of hospitals and health care providers. For people traveling overseas, contact your primary care doctor or travel medicine clinic to determine what pre-screenings or immunizations might be recommended or required, based on your health history and countries on the itinerary.
Following these tips may help you focus on fun, friends and family during the summer, while helping maintain or improve your health now and in the future.