With the long gray over and our days filled with sun, summer in the Pacific Northwest is the best season to get outside. Fishing, hiking, sailing, and camping are just a few popular pastimes for adventurous Washingtonians. When we aren’t exploring our great outdoors, we can enjoy festivals and markets; cook and dine al fresco; or just catch rays at a local park.
Summer is a great time to practice healthy fitness habits and adopt a few new ones. Here are some ideas on how you can live actively this summer.
Hit the road
Washington has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. From the mossy rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula to the rugged deserts around the Grand Coulee Dam, this state has something for everyone. Hitting the road is a great way to bond with friends and family. No matter which direction you go, you’re bound to find something interesting. Be sure to bring plenty of water and healthy snacks. Healthline.com recommends bringing fresh fruits, trail mix, hard-boiled eggs, and avocados, among other treats.
Take a hike
The American Psychological Association notes that numerous studies indicate that time spent outside can improve our mental health. Whether it’s a hike in the mountains or a walk in a nearby park, being surrounded by nature can reduce stress and increase happiness. Nature may also protect our emotional well-being, reducing the likelihood of future psychiatric disorders.
Grass and trees are a calming influence on our media-saturated minds, and keep us present in the moment. Being in or near nature improves our memory and attention, while urban settings devoid of greenery are linked to attention deficits. One theory holds that human beings evolved to survive in natural settings and have a deep instinct to connect with nature. If you are venturing into our hills and mountains, be sure to dress appropriately with suitable shoes, head gear, and layers of clothing for our unpredictable weather. REI recommends these 10 essential safety items even for a quick day hike:
- A map (or a compass or GPS device)
- First aid kit
- Fire starter
- Shelter such as a foldable poncho
- An extra layer of clothes
The water’s fine
Research on the benefits of nature have primarily focused on the green variety (grass and trees), but more research is being done on the “blue nature” found in the open skies and waters of lakes and ocean beaches. As temperatures rise, people naturally seek out a cool swim. Whether you’re lounging by a lake, tubing down a river, or swimming in the ocean, the International Journal of Mental Health notes that a day near the water can be as beneficial to our emotional well-being as a walk in the woods.
If you’re planning an outing to the water, be sure to dress appropriately, bring plenty of drinking water, and apply sunscreen to uncovered skin. The National Foundation for Cancer Research recommends a full spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 rating.
Summer is a season of farmers markets, outdoor concerts, and picnics in the park. Communities come together to celebrate with parades, carnivals, and crafts fairs. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, large crowds and the risk of communicable diseases are a source of anxiety for many. According to the journal PLoS One, however, large gatherings can also have a positive impact on our mental health and emotional well-being.
The key benefit to such events is bonding with people who share common interests. Social connection plays an important role in mental health and large gatherings reward our need for connectedness. Attending a carnival or music festival engages us with a community of like-minded enthusiasts. The range of emotions experienced at such events, from rapturous joy to thrilling excitement, contribute to this bond. When attending summer events, enjoy living in the moment and embrace the benefits of being part of a larger community.
With our long summer evenings, many in the Pacific Northwest take to the field or track after dinner. Playfields host baseball and soccer games. Trails and roads are the playground of long-distance runners and cyclists. Our mountains, lakes, and the Puget Sound offer a paradise for mountain biking, sailing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and water skiing.
Sports offer the mental health benefits of being outdoors, the social benefits of a group activity, and the physical benefits of a healthy workout. The Journal of Sport and Health Science notes that amateur sport leagues provide a welcome alternative to the sedentary lifestyle many now live. Not only do challenging physical activities improve endurance and bone density, they also provide the social connectivity vital to emotional well-being. If you have any questions about your fitness regimen, consult your Kinwell clinician.
Whatever your individual passion—a concert, a hike in the forest, or a team sport at your local park—summer in the Northwest is an ideal time to enjoy the natural beauty of our region. Remember to dress flexibly, stay hydrated, wear that sunscreen as you enjoy our amazing corner of the world