Has the summer heat got you feeling less than your best? Check out these summer indulgences that can help you look and feel better.
Erase pain with leisurely strolls.
Everyone knows brisk walks have many health benefits — but no one wants to get sticky and sweaty these days. The good news: You can slow down!
Canadian researchers say relaxing strolls can prevent headaches as effectively as prescription pain meds, plus cut muscle stiffness and pain by 57 percent in 20 minutes — and by as much as 90 percent if you stroll daily. Explains neurologist Matt Linde, M.D., relaxing walks calm overactive pain nerves and relax tight muscles, plus they reduce the production of the pain-triggering stress hormone cortisol.
Sharpen focus with porch time.
Yard work is, well, work! So if you’ve been spending most of your outdoor time weeding the garden, mowing the grass, and tidying up, pull off those gardening gloves and treat yourself to a relaxing break on the porch.
University of Michigan doctors say taking 20 minutes to stretch out in your favorite chair and watch the world go by can cut the risk of brain fog and mental burnout by 50 percent, since gazing at lush, growing plants while hearing soothing nature sounds stimulates your brain to release a focus-enhancing neurotransmitter (dopamine).
Deepen sleep with a chocolate cone.
Late sunsets and sticky nights double the risk of insomnia. Happily, British scientists say a favorite summertime treat — chocolate ice cream — can bring on sweet dreams. Their studies suggest enjoying a 1⁄2-cup serving at bedtime will help you drift off 15 minutes sooner and cut the risk of middle-of-the-night awakenings in half.
Credit this cool treat’s blend of cocoa and sugar, which prompts your brain to release the “relaxing” hormone serotonin, plus tamps down the production of a sleep-sabotaging neurotransmitter (orexin).
Build immunity with weekend naps.
Craving more naps these days? Your nervous system is working overtime to keep your core temperature steady on steamy days, and that can tamp down its production of energizing beta brain waves. But indulging in a couple of catnaps each week will put pep back in your step.
What’s more, your body produces virus-fighting antibodies during sleep. Cornell scientists say extra shut-eye boosts the production of these antibodies by 35 percent, cutting your risk of viral infections by 50 percent.
Slim down fast with grilled spuds.
Potatoes are our favorite veggie — and they’re great for your waistline! Australian researchers say eating one spud daily (with the skin) can help you lose one pound weekly without dieting.
Thanks goes to potato nutrients (tryptophan and potassium) that keep fat-burning metabolism high even when hot weather makes us sluggish. Bonus: Potatoes brim with compounds that lower blood pressure by four points if you eat one daily.
Restore energy with a frosty beer.
Sipping a cold beer tastes great when it’s hot and humid outside. And it can also boost your energy level and stamina by as much as 40 percent in just one week when you sip 12 ounces daily, suggests research at Virginia’s Old Dominion University.
Explains internal medicine specialist Valerie Burke, M.D., beer’s antioxidants, hops, and alcohol work together to improve insulin sensitivity inside muscle and brain cells, helping them quickly soak up and use energizing glucose for fuel.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.