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15 summer health tips to feel amazing this season

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It’s the perfect time of year to eat better, be more active and focus on your well-being. Here’s how to get started.

Life tends to feel a little easier in the summer. Sunny days can brighten your mood,1 and you have more hours of daylight to spend outdoors. You feel more energized and renewed. So what better time to try some healthier habits?

We’ve got plenty of tips to help you feel your best all season long.

1. Protect your skin in style. You know you should wear a hat when you’re outdoors. But some types offer more protection from the sun’s rays than others. Case in point: Skip baseball caps. They shade only a small amount of skin. Instead, switch to a brimmed sun hat. Choose one made of tightly woven fabric, like canvas. (The sun’s rays can pass through a straw hat.) The darker your hat, the more protection you may get.2

2. Put on sunscreen like a pro. Some spots on the body are easy to overlook, like the tops of the feet. Use a sunscreen marked “broad spectrum.” and with an SPF 303 or higher. Before you head outside, make sure you’ve covered your whole body. Include these easy-to-miss spots:

  • Lips
  • Ears
  • Scalp/hairline (If you don’t want to use sunscreen on your scalp, wear a hat instead)
  • Eyelids
  • Hands
  • The area between the inner corner of your eye and the bridge of your nose

3. Stay cool in the heat. Need a simple way to cool down fast? Create your own “spa towels.” Place a chilled, scented towel on your face. To do this, soak washcloths in clean, cold water. Add a few drops of essential oil. An essential oil is an extract from a plant. Then wring them out and roll them up. Store them in a plastic container in your refrigerator.

4. Soothe your feet. You may feel like your feet need pampering now that you’re wearing sandals. Remove dry skin with a sugar-based scrub. Then rub in a heavy cream that can soften the thick skin on your heels and soles. Check the label for terms like urea, alpha hydroxy acid and salicylic acid.4

5. Get creative with grilling. Hot dogs and hamburgers are easy to toss on the grill, but so are veggies. “Try vegetables like eggplant, zucchini and peppers. They taste wonderful when they’re grilled,” says Jennifer Donahue, MD. She’s an Optum family medicine doctor in Groton, Connecticut.

“You may find you’re more likely to eat them,” says Dr. Donahue. Peaches and pineapples are also delicious when grilled, she adds.

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6. Flavor your water. The healthiest drink on hot and humid days is water. But sometimes, plain water can get a little boring. Try adding berries or melon to your water for a boost of flavor. Cucumbers and mint are also tasty choices.

7. Try a new activity. You don’t have to join the town softball league or anything that formal. But playing a new sport can make exercising more fun. If you have kids, think about pickleball. It’s a mix of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong that’s great for all ages.

Other summery picks include Frisbee golf, water aerobics and outdoor yoga classes. Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.5 That means you can talk but not sing while you’re moving.6 If that feels like too much, start with just a few minutes a day. Think: a game of catch or a walk with your family. Healthy habits are built over time. Keep it up and you’ll get to your goal.

8. Upgrade your sunglasses. It can be easy to forget about protecting your eyes from the sun. Here’s a not-so-fun fact. Just being outside can burn your eyes, leading to vision problems later on. To protect your eyes, choose the right sunglasses. The labels should say they block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB light.7

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9. Plan a safer cookout. It doesn’t take long for germs to grow in food that’s left in the hot sun. Set a timer when you serve the food. That way, you won’t forget to bring it inside before it spoils. If it’s more than 90 degrees outside, don’t let the dishes sit for longer than an hour. If it’s cooler than that, food can stay outside for up to two hours.8 

10. Keep bugs at bay. Mosquito and tick bites can pass on many illnesses that can bring summer fun to a halt. To stay safe, Dr. Donahue suggests using a bug spray that includes DEET on your skin. And use one that has the permethrin on your clothes. DEET and permethrin are chemicals that repel bugs. They’ll be listed on the label. Just don’t overdo it.

“People often think they have to use bug spray like sunscreen. But you only need to put it on once,” she says.

Don’t want to use DEET? Look for a product that has oil of lemon eucalyptus.9

11. Add vitamin C to your skin care routine. While it doesn’t replace sunscreen, applying vitamin C serum may offer some protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Plus, it can help fight signs of sun damage, such as dark spots, uneven skin tone and fine lines.10 You can find vitamin C serum at your local drugstore.

12. Wear sandals that support your feet. Flip-flops may be your summer go-to shoes. But they’re too flimsy to wear for long periods, Dr. Donahue says. “Plus, you have to constantly tense your feet to keep them on.” This can lead to pain across the top or bottom of the foot. Try to save flip-flops for the pool or beach. Wear sneakers or other light shoes that give your feet good support.

13. Have more fun gardening. Tending to plants is a great way to stay active and ease stress. But all that bending over can lead to aches and pains. The key is to stay close to the plants. Invest in a gardening mat or knee pads. That way you can limit the amount of time you spend standing and bending, Dr. Donahue says. You’ll protect your lower back and cushion your knees.

14. Make your own smoothie pops. There’s nothing like an ice pop to cool you down on a hot day. Here’s an easy recipe. Fill the ice pop molds with your favorite smoothie, suggests Dr. Donahue. You can also layer them with yogurt and fruit. Do it the night before and they’ll be ready by morning.

15. Take care of sunburns the right way. Did you forget your sunscreen and get a sunburn? Start treating it ASAP. To lessen the pain, take cool baths or showers. Then use moisturizer that includes soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera or soy. You may also want to take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or aspirin. They can reduce pain as well as redness and swelling. And be sure to drink plenty of water. Your body needs more to heal a sunburn.11 One thing that helps take the pain away? Using your HSA/FSA funds to save on products that can help with sunburn.

Stock up on all your summer health essentials in one swoop at the Optum Store. Shop now.


  1. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine. The effect of ultraviolet light on mood, depressive disorders and well-being. Published September 2018. Accessed June 17, 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sun safety. Last reviewed April 18, 2022. Accessed May 15, 2022.
  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs. Accessed May 15, 2022.
  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to care for dry, cracked heels. Updated January 31, 2022. Accessed July 19, 2022.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? Last reviewed March 17, 2022. Accessed May 15, 2022.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring physical activity intensity. Last reviewed June 2, 2022. Accessed June 17, 2022.
  7. Skin Cancer Foundation. The sun & your eyes. Published June 2019. Accessed May 15, 2022.
  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Handling food safely while eating outdoors. Published February 2022. Accessed May 15, 2022.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevent tick and mosquito bites. Last reviewed February 9, 2022. Access June 10, 2022.
  10. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Topical vitamin C and the skin: Mechanisms of action and clinical applications. Published July 1, 2017. Accessed July 19, 2022.
  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to treat sunburn. Accessed May 15, 2022.

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