How to Have a Happy, Healthy Summer

two smiling children wearing sun hats and sunglasses outside

Summertime often means spending more time out of doors, because of longer days, sunshine, picnics, barbecues, and kids out of school.

Here’s how to make the most of your summer and stay healthy, too.

Be active; be cool

Regular physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle in every season. The warm summer weather can make it easy to exercise outdoors and get the whole family involved. Just be sure to take some precautions so you don’t get overheated in the hot weather.

  • Exercise in the morning or evening, when it’s likely to be cooler outdoors. If possible, exercise in shady areas. If it’s too hot to go out, work out at the gym, or walk laps or climb stairs inside an air-conditioned building.
  • Drink plenty of water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Help your body sweat and cool down by drinking water frequently.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to help sweat evaporate and keep you cooler. If possible, wear a light-colored, wide-brimmed hat.
  • Involve the whole family. Physical activity is important for everyone. Take children and oldsters to the park, turn on some music and dance, or get pedometers for everyone in the family and have a friendly competition to see who can log the most steps each day.
  • Plan an active vacation. Camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkeling are great ways to spend time in nature and get a lot of exercise. If you’re visiting a city, consider renting bicycles or taking a walking tour.

Eat right and stay healthy

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy an outdoor meal with friends and family. Refreshing salads, melons, and berries add color and flavor to picnics and cookouts. But because warmer temperatures can easily spoil food, you’ll need to be extra careful.

  • Wash hands, utensils, containers, and work surfaces before handling food to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading.
  • Cook food the same day as the picnic, not in advance, to give bacteria less time to grow.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables before cutting, in case bacteria are present on the rind or peel.
  • Keep mayonnaise-based foods and other cold foods in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Throw out leftovers that have been sitting out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is over 90°F.

And if you’re cooking out, follow these tips for safe, healthy grilling:

  • Serve more chicken, fish, and vegetables, and cut back on ground beef, pork, sausage, and hot dogs.
  • Defrost and marinate foods in the refrigerator, and don’t reuse marinade that touched raw meat or poultry unless you boil it. Bring one set of plates and utensils for handling raw foods and another for cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Bring a food thermometer to be sure grilled foods are cooked enough. Hamburgers should be cooked to at least 160°F and chicken breasts to 165°F.
  • Cooking meat at high temperatures creates chemicals that may raise your cancer risk. Reduce the risk by cleaning charred bits from your grill before cooking and from your food before eating. Line the grill with foil poked with holes. The fat will drip off, but the smoke won’t reach the meat.

Stay safe in the sun

Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and manmade sources like tanning booths. Protect your skin from the sun when you go outside, especially during the long, warm summer days.

  • Cover up: When you are out in the sun, wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much skin as possible. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block at least 99% of UV light.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher: Put more on at least every 2 hours, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Seek shade: Limit your direct exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps: Both can cause serious long-term skin damage and contribute to skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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