THE BLOG

Summer Fitness

15/07/2014 16:45 BST | Updated 14/09/2014 10:59 BST

Mention summer and immediately bikinis, swim suits, short shorts and skimpy clothes come to mind. Whatever our age we all want to look our best in the sunshine and this means watching what we eat and being active to help us keep our bodies toned, trim and fit for summer.

Summertime should be all about fun in the sun, so make sure you get outdoors whenever possible. Recreational activities are beneficial and can also be included as exercise because doing something is better than doing nothing. And certainly don't decide this is the time for a little summer break from fitness! The experts say "It's important to continue exercising over the summer because the effects of working the body and exercising are soon lost once training stops". It's also possible that you may do yourself more harm than good in the long run. So remember... if you don't use it you may lose it! Exercise doesn't always have to be the recommended consistent 30 minutes a day - and just ten minutes of exercise/activity a few times a day will soon add up!

In the summer months if possible take your exercise during the cooler parts of the day and decrease exercise intensity and duration if the temperature does soar. Get into the habit of taking your exercise anywhere; it could be the gym, your home or garden, your local park or just anyplace, so long as you do regular physical activity. I always find the best time to exercise outdoors is early morning or late evening, and I also find that teaming up with a friend makes any activity more fun. I avoid working out in the middle of the day when the temperature is at its highest and if I've been doing my brisk walking I like to do my stretching and cooling down in the shade of the trees and bushes when I've finished.

And talking of bushes... reminds me. At this time of the year why not take the opportunity to forage; it can yield some delicious results! The hedgerows are now full of blackberries, elderberries, damsons, apples, sloes and rose hips, all wild fruits which are extremely good for us. Back home you can use the berries to make jams, pies, cordials or even gin! Or you could freeze some to use during the winter months.

When it is hot outdoors who doesn't love water activities? Being in water is a great way to get your exercise whilst keeping cool from the heat. Swimming is a great fitness choice especially for those who have physical problems and those who find other forms of exercise painful. Water supports the body's weight making exercising safe and beneficial, and helps ease stiff joints and fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land exercises. People with arthritis or other disabilities use water to improve fitness and range of movement, as well as to relieve pain and stiffness, and it's why injured athletes and sportspersons use water for remedial purposes.

If you can't already swim make this the summer when you learn to! Join a class at your local health centre; you will benefit both physically and socially being amongst others whilst you conquer the technique. When you do start slowly by trying to swim for 10 minutes, then build up to a 30-minute workout three times a week. Even when with swimming always start with a simple warm-up and end with a cool-down, but challenge yourself by pushing yourself to work that bit harder in the middle!

We can still enjoy the summer without diverting from our healthy lifestyle by watching what we eat in order to maintain our personal fitness goals. Many people complain that life is too busy to bother - in which case I say it's time for them to change personal social and eating habits to promote a healthy lifestyle. So instead of eating that heavy meal they should pack a lunch and go for a walk!

The "hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer" will probably include picnics and barbeques during the holidays and warm weekends. But there are still ways to enjoy these while maintaining healthy eating habits. Focus on simple snacks that aren't too heavy and which don't take much time to prepare. If you like meat in your picnic or on the barbeque make sure its lean cut meat - like steak, chicken and turkey. Personally I prefer fish and other seafood and when the weather is hot I like to eat smaller meals but more frequently. I find the more often I eat, the higher my metabolic rate - and a higher metabolism burns more calories.

Why not try barbeque veggie kebabs alongside your meat or fish - plus plenty of other vegetables and those delicious summer fruits? Most fruit has a high water content so eating watermelon, peaches and most "juicy" fruits will provide you with much-needed hydration. The summer sun can be very draining and cause heat exhaustion and with the heat you will perspire more and lose lots of fluid, so hydration is essential. Drink plenty of water, as much as you can to help replace the fluids lost in perspiration. The risk of dehydration during the summer months is extremely high, especially in older people, so it is important to pay attention to your hydration levels.

The colour of your urine is the easiest way to determine your hydration level. It should be light yellow and as close to clear as possible. Water cleanses the body and allows it to function more efficiently so make sure you are drinking before, during, and after exercise. Dark yellow urine, the colour of apple juice, means dehydration, so keep a bottle of water in your bag, your car, at work or any other place where you spend a lot of time. We all need to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated to keep fit for summer.