Lifestyle

10 summer wellness ideas for you and your family


Boys spending summer day on the river






Wild swimming is excellent for boosting circulation.
Photograph: AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to make us re-evaluate what’s really important in life and for many of us, it’s our health. Tight restrictions on where we’ve been able to go and what we’ve been able to do have boosted the sales of fitness equipment as we’ve looked for ways to stay in shape, while staying safe.

For many, this unprecedented situation has strained both our physical and mental wellbeing, but with lockdown measures easing and warmer weeks ahead, now is the time to renew good intentions and get more physically active.

“Lockdown has knocked our health balance,” says Claire Davis, a fitness coach at wellness retreat 38 Degrees North. “We’ve eaten and drunk too much, exercised less than normal and succumbed to bad habits, increasing our stress levels. But summer is the ideal time to make healthy changes.”

So whether your aim is to lose the odd lockdown pound, feel fitter or just stay strong enough to weather life’s next big storm, this is the perfect time to make the changes you’ve been daydreaming about.

Boy walking dog on a leash



A bit of canine company makes it a lot easier to get the kids out for a walk. Photograph: Pauline St.Denis/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

1. Borrow a dog
Spoiler alert: walking is perhaps the best exercise there is as it’s low impact, can be done anywhere and almost anyone of any fitness level can get involved, for free.

Just 15 minutes of moderate walking can see you cover about a mile’s worth of ground, so it’s easily one of the best ways to get out and get moving. Getting kids excited about going for a walk can be challenging, so why not lure them with the temptation of a furry friend for company? Borrow a neighbour’s dog to take to the local park or check out dog-lending websites such as borrowmydoggy.com to find a pooch in your area that may need its legs stretching.

2. Pick local produce
Because of lockdown, the pick-your-own season has had a bit of a slow start, but many farms have now applied social distancing measures and reopened for business. A morning or afternoon picking your own fruit and veg is not only wholesome family fun (whisper it: exercise), but it also supports local businesses, and ticks the environmentally friendly box as it means fresh groceries without all of the unnecessary shrink-wrap. A quick Google should help locate your local farms (or try pickyourownfarms.org.uk) and remember to call to check opening times and crop availability ahead of your visit.

3. Go for a dip
Summer is the perfect time for outdoor swimming, whether that’s at your local lido (call and check that they’ve reopened) or somewhere a little more wild. There’s something extremely invigorating about braving the elements and swimming outdoors, and the UK is studded with rivers, lakes, ponds and beaches that are clean and safe to swim in.

Wild swimming is loaded with health benefits, from lowering stress hormones to improving circulation and reducing inflammation, plus a 30-minute session in cold water can burn almost 400 calories. Visit wildswimming.co.uk for locations close to you.

4. Raise your voice
People underestimate the fitness potential of a good old sing-song, but belting out a few tunes can burn calories, strengthen the diaphragm and pump more oxygen around the body than many other forms of aerobic exercise. It’s also brilliant for mental health – reducing stress, boosting self-confidence and releasing endorphins.

Most local choirs remain on hold due to Covid-19 but many are holding virtual sing-alongs (check out singforfun.co.uk).

5. Hit the dance floor
It might be a while before nightclubs reopen, but dancing is a brilliant form of exercise and can be done right this second. Not only is dance a brilliant all-over aerobic workout, there is also a unique sense of freedom and empowerment that comes from moving your body to music, perfect for pepping yourself up post-lockdown.

Dance instructor Illana Gambrill was so overwhelmed by people desperate to get back to Dancebox – her Essex-based classes – that she’s created a weekly online programme that is easy to sign up to, simple to follow and a bona fide saviour for mind, body and soul.

High angle view of boy picking strawberries at field



Picking your own veg is both eco-friendly and supports local businesses. Photograph: Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

6. Eat alfresco
Weather permitting, there is nothing more satisfying than sharing a meal with friends and family outdoors – the feelgood factor itself does much to boost our wellbeing. It is also thought to be of great benefit to children as outdoor eating – such as picnics and barbecues – often goes hand-in-hand with playdates and family bonding time. Fire up the coals or get a disposable barbecue to grill fish or lean cuts of meat such as chicken breasts or pork fillets, which are a healthier substitute for fatty burgers and sausages.

Experiment with different marinades and simple side salads, invite some friends and don’t forget your brolly for the quintessential British experience. Fingers crossed you won’t need it.

7. Learn to hula
Hula hooping might conjure up visions of 1980s lycra-clad fitness types, or seem more like vintage child’s play, but it can actually burn as much fat as treadmill exercises, and other benefits include toning muscles and strengthening your heart.

Advocates reckon that 10 minutes of hula-ing a day will see results and the plastic hoop should only set you back a couple of quid from a general store (although if you’re feeling fancy, a weighted one can be purchased for less than the cost of your average round at the pub). With minimal kit required and plenty of tutorials available online, this is an amazing way to start getting active again after the long lockdown break.

8. Go geocaching
Imagine that you could be a part of the world’s biggest treasure hunt the moment you step out your door. Geocaching is exactly that. This free outdoor activity is suitable for all ages and uses the GPS on your smartphone to allow you to hide and seek secret containers at specific locations, marked by coordinates all over the world.

Getting you out and about, turning you into real-life Lara Crofts – this is a brilliantly fun activity for the whole family. And with more than 3m caches to find, there’s bound to be something to sniff out near you. Register for a free basic membership at geocaching.com.

9. Get out in the garden
There is increasing evidence that gardening provides substantial health benefits – just interacting with flora lowers our cortisol, improving mood and mental health. You can also burn about 330 calories doing one hour of light gardening, plus when you’re outdoors your body makes vitamin D, which strengthens bones, although you should still apply sunscreen.

If you don’t have a garden, search online for a local community gardening initiative; failing that, plant some salad leaves in indoor pots. Growing your own food helps children develop a lasting habit of eating fresh vegetables and might make them more likely to try new (green) things.

10. Walk and work
For many, lockdown has forced us to re-evaluate the way we work, revealing our astounding ability to multitask. So post lockdown, consider the ways in which you could make your regular working day that bit more active.

Need to schedule a 30-minute meeting? Do what Steve Jobs was fond of and have a walking meeting instead. Or if somebody wants to meet up to talk business over coffee, suggest making it a takeaway and having a stroll. You can also extend these multitasking habits outside of work hours with a spot of “temptation bundling” – pairing something you love with an activity you’re trying to do more of. Make sitting in a squat while binge-watching box-sets the new normal.

This advertiser content was paid for by the UK government. All Together is a government-backed initiative tasked with informing the UK about the Covid-19 pandemic



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