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For Your Health – Eleven Tips for a Healthier Summer


For Your Health Graphic

The weather and school calendars have moved quickly toward summer, and that makes it a great time to think about ways we — and our families — can keep up with healthy routines while enjoying all that the season has to offer.

While it’s hard to find a time of year that feels more relaxed than summer, it can also have some unique challenges that can make it more difficult to keep up with, or build on, our healthy behaviors. Here are 11 tips that may help:

For warm weather:

  •  Get outside for walks or bike rides in the early morning or evening — when it’s cooler. Take a moment to look at the forecast and try to get out when it’s cooler, or choose indoor activities at a gym or rec center.
  • Stay hydrated. When we’re out walking or playing with our family, it’s easy to get behind on hydration. So, it’s good to keep water bottles filled and in reach for when we need them.
  • Enjoy green spaces. Our parks and other open areas are great places to enjoy physical activity. The trees and shade can provide a break from the heat, and studies have found that just spending time in green spaces can have many mental and physical benefits.

For BBQs and picnics:

  • Save space on the plate for healthy options. It’s important to enjoy foods that make summer feel like summer. But those aren’t always the healthiest options, so be sure to save space on your plate for healthy, and still tasty, options, like watermelon, grilled corn and grilled chicken breasts.
  • Go for healthy drinks. Instead of sugary drinks or beer or hard seltzers, try unsweetened fizzy waters and the growing number of good alcohol-free beers or similar options.

 For time in the sun:

  • Pick a 30 SPF or higher sunscreen that you like — and use it regularly. Most sunscreens today provide good protection. Chemical sunscreens help absorb the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Mineral sunscreens help block UV rays. Both types are safe to use. So, pick the ones you like — and keep them handy when heading outside.
  • Use enough sunscreen — and reapply. To get the full protection sunscreens offer, it’s important to use enough. Most of us don’t. Apply about one ounce — or the amount that fills the center of the palm of your hand. And reapply about every two hours, or after swimming or exercising.
  • Wear sun-safe clothes — and find shade. A little planning can make it a lot easier to stay sun-safe. Think about where you might find shade, or set up an umbrella or canopy. And bring enough sun-safe clothes for you and your family — long-sleeve shirts, wide-brim hats and UV-protective sunglasses.


  • Keep a good sleep routine. Summer can be tough on sleep, with the long days filled with activities. But it’s still important to get good sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid large meals, caffeine, alcohol and exercise within a couple hours of bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. Try to keep the bedroom at a good temperature, and use eye masks or a white noise app, if light or noise are an issue in your home or neighborhood.

Kid and family routines

  • Make it easy for kids to be active and find healthy snacks and drinks. Summer vacation can be a big change in kids’ regular routines. So, it’s important to help them keep up with behaviors that are good for their long-term health and growth. Keep fruit out in the open and a pitcher of water and cut-up vegetables at eye level in the fridge. And encourage kids to sit less and move more by walking or cycling with them to day care or summer camp, or by going on walks to the park after dinner.

Enjoy a great summer.

It’s your — and your family’s — health. Take control.

For more on ways to lower the risk of colon and other cancers, visit

Dr. Graham A. Colditz HeadshotDr. Graham A. Colditz, associate director of prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is an internationally recognized leader in cancer prevention and the creator of the free prevention tool