Ah summer. It’s all about the fun, right? Picnics. Pools. Sprinklers. Parks.
Well, that’s just part of it.
Summer is also about transformation—from the inside out. It’s a chance to let sun and warmth and the greening outdoors give our bodies, hearts, and minds an annual reset. And the effects can be profound and lasting, says Tara McCoy, MOBE Health Guide.
“I want everyone I coach to understand the power of summer,” Tara says, “and to take advantage of the unique ways it can improve our health and well-being.”
Here are three ways Tara encourages us to soak up the benefits as the days get longer and the temperatures rise.
Summer, Tara reminds us, is the perfect time to optimize our exposure to light. This in turn promotes changes in our circadian rhythms. These are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow us throughout each 24-hour cycle. They drive things like when we feel sleepy or when we are hungry.1
“In summer, we have so much more opportunity to get outside and be in the sunshine,” Tara says. This helps to regulate hormones like cortisol and melatonin. “Cortisol is often thought of as the stress hormone,” Tara says. “But it’s also important to our circadian rhythms, waking us up and energizing us for the day.”
Getting sunlight first thing in the morning helps start our 24-hour clock, helping regulate the body’s internal cues—benefitting our metabolism, stress response, and even our sleep.
Tara also wants people to take their cues from the sun when it goes down. “That’s the time to wind down and put away our screens so we can minimize how much artificial light we’re exposed to.”
Tara is a big proponent of heading outdoors when it’s time to get active. “When you find ways to exercise outside, you gain so much more than fitness,” she says.
Scientists are discovering the benefits of “green exercise,” Tara says. “It affects not just your body but your mind. In fact, we know the effects happen almost immediately. Within the first five minutes of being active outdoors, your mood improves, your mindset becomes calmer, and your stress hormones recede.”
The research suggests that being outdoors in nature helps quiet the anxious, ruminating brain. “The effect is similar to meditation,” Tara says. “It helps us feel more calm and puts us into a state of flow.”
Tara says we can think of it as “a system reset” that helps us regain focus and prepare to get back to the challenging tasks of the day.
Outdoors is also where summer’s gardens thrive. And the warmer months offer an explosion of a variety of fruits and veggies. That’s not just good for your waistline, says Tara, it’s also great for the bacteria in your gut, also known as your “gut microbiome.”
“We’re seeing some exciting research about all the ways bacterial diversity in our gut can improve our health,” Tara says. “Research shows a link between beneficial bacteria and the suppression of certain kinds of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease. There also seems to be a positive connection to overall immunity.”2
The more fruits and veggies we consume, Tara says, “the more support we give that balanced microbiome. Every plant we eat—fruits, vegetables, legumes—contains a different combination of phytochemicals and fiber that feed that microbiome.”
In summer, Tara recommends reserving one meal a day for a giant, healthy salad. “Because vegetables have a lot of volume and not a lot of calories, make sure it's a ‘super-salad,’” she advises. “That means pack it with lots of vegetables—plus a complex carb like quinoa—and top it with lean protein. Think fish, beans, or tofu.”
One of the best ways to expand your repertoire of fruits and veggies is with a visit to a farmer’s market, Tara points out. “Chat up the growers, because many will offer recipes and tips for using what they grow. So, you can also expand your culinary skills in the process.”
Tara wants people to remember that however you take advantage of summer, it’s fleeting.
“You have to really dive into everything summer offers,” she says. “Because all too soon, it’s just a memory.”
Are you ready to make the most of summer? A MOBE Guide can help you create an action plan to reach your personal health goals. To find out if you’re eligible for MOBE, check your status or call 844-841-9725. Ready to take the first step with a MOBE Guide? Schedule a call online or download the MOBE Health Guide app.
1. Circadian Rhythms. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx
2. Can gut bacteria improve your health? Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health