Sticking to a regular workout routine is hard enough without all the barriers of wearing a mask, gyms constantly shutting down, crowded parks, and our favourite…the increasingly hot heatwave. It can be difficult to find the right balance between movement and resting, particularly when it seems as if some days a jog down the street may land you in the emergency room. Here’s a how-to guide on staying active and cool this summer to look after your mental and physical well-being.
Re-Defining Health, Wellness and Movement
After passing over a year of being in a pandemic, I think it’s safe to say that most of us have come to re-define exercise, movement, and overall health. While some have found value in slowing down – giving their body and minds more rest, others have found the value in daily movement and stimulation. Regardless, it seems as though we are generally pushing beyond upholding diet culture and forcing ourselves to endure exercises and leaning more towards nurturing and listening to what our body needs.
Over the years we’ve gone through phases of various beauty and physique standards that we not only uphold for others but also ourselves. Although the athletic body type may seem idealistic, it’s not necessarily an end-goal to hold ourselves accountable to – despite what we’ve been socialized to believe.
Health, wellness and movement are whatever you define them to be, and should be what best suits the needs of your body. The best part about that is that when you define your own health and wellness needs, you can engage in activities that you truly enjoy. Things that make you feel happy, strong, empowered, engaged, social, or whatever type of joyous feeling you’d like! With this in mind, exercise and movements can range from all types of things from jumping rope, biking, jumping on a trampoline, swimming, playing baseball, yoga, walking, to everything in between. The most important part is that it brings on those endorphins and helps you reach your personal goals – emphasis on personal and not what the cover of a magazine says.
It’s Getting Hot in Here
Our bodies have amazing cues that will indicate when they feel like moving, resting, eating, drinking, and most importantly, getting out of the sun because the heat is way too strong. As I mentioned earlier, exercise is hard enough without all the COVID and summer-heat barriers. So let’s go through some ways that you can get in those bits of movement your body needs without sacrificing your physical well-being.
Staying hydrated is the number one way to keep your body running – regardless of if you’re running or resting. Also, spend time cooling down. If you don’t have AC, try placing a bowl of ice in front of the fan next to you. Taking frequent cool or cold showers is also a great way to bring your body temperature down, as well as turning off unnecessary lights and heavy appliances. If those aren’t working, try a cool wet towel and spending time near the ground or basement level if you have access. Bodies of water such as pools, fountains, lakes, rivers and oceans are also great resources for getting cooled down and having fun.
Now that we’ve got some ideas for staying cool, we can talk about willingly breaking a sweat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, staying hydrated is one of the most fundamental aspects of surviving the heat. It may also be wise to opt for early-morning workouts as it’s usually much cooler at dawn than sunset. Be mindful when picking your outfit and always go for the more breathable and lightweight option – yes, even if your new tight, black leggings seem more flattering. Go through your movements in intervals to allow yourself periodic rest times to hydrate and cool down. Who knows, it may even put you on to a new HIIT routine you didn’t even know you loved. Lastly, if you’re brave enough to take your exercise out in the sun, always practice sun safety and wear SPF.
Balancing Mental and Physical Health
Now that we’ve identified what movement means and how we can accomplish it in these circumstances, I want to draw attention to the value of maintaining physical and mental well-being. Exercise is powerful in not only managing common mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, but it also decreases one’s overall stress and symptoms of ADHD. As we engage in active or mindful movements, our brain begins to promote neural growth, reduce inflammation and release endorphins, which is our body’s natural way of creating “feel good” chemicals. In addition, physical activity increases the brain’s release of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels which allow us to increase our attention to a specific task.
Balancing our physical health by caring for our mental health is also extremely important as it can be very challenging to take care of ourselves physically if our mental health needs are not being met. Whether it’s through journaling, mindfulness, meditation, or talking directly to someone, it should be a priority. With physical and mental health working in a symbiotic relationship, it may even be useful to slowly increase practices of well-being on both sides, such as a walk with a close friend or yoga with a friend or family member. Whatever works best for you, let’s get it started today!
To help you get a start on your wellness journey, Teachers Life has launched a Get Out & Get Healthy Contest. All Teachers Life Virtual Wellness Program participants who earn up to a minimum of 2500 points during the period between July 1st – September 30th, 2021 will be entered into a random draw for a chance to win a prize! The prizes include:
1 x $500 Visa Gift Cards
2 x $250 Visa Gift Cards
10 x $100 Visa Gift Cards
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