After a long winter, most of us are more than ready for some great outdoors. In fact, we probably really need it! Weight gain and increased stress levels have been common companions during the pandemic. But with the skies clearing up, temperatures rising and restrictions easing up, this summer can be something really special—especially if we commit to getting outside and making the best of what the long days and warm nights have to offer. While sometimes we resist doing activities that are different from our usual routines, it’s time to branch out!
So take a deep, cleansing breath: Here are some fresh ideas to shake off the stress and any unhealthy habits and embrace a wholesome, delicious summer outdoors.
1. Yoga in the park (or your backyard)
One of yoga’s (many) benefits is that it is good for both physical and mental health. Another is that it can literally be done anywhere. You may have noticed in your community, more and more people doing exercises outside in the park. The benefits are multifold: Your body gets moving, you breathe in the fresh air, you get the sun on your face, you feel the grass beneath your feet and you get that warm feeling of being a part of the community. You may even make new friends. Ask at community centres, or check out your local online community/city website.
When you leave the four walls of a studio, all of your senses wake up—scent, sight, and touch, in particular, activate parts of the brain that make you more present. If you want a quieter, more meditative experience, do yoga or meditate in the morning in your back yard or on a dock.
2. Start a walking/running club
We all know that we stick to our exercise goals more if we are committed to an activity with a friend. So get your heart pumping by gathering a group of friends who, like you, want to boost their health this summer. Commit to going running or walking two to three times a week. Choose a meeting spot and decide to walk (or run) for a certain length of time. Each day, a different participant can choose a route. Many running clubs find that there can be one day during the week where the goal is to “just get it done,” and then one day on the weekend can be a run followed by some socializing. Whether you walk or run, on the more relaxed day, consider a potluck social in the park or in someone’s yard afterward. Each person can bring something— sandwiches, drinks, fruit, cookies or power bars.
3. Make that a walking book/movie club
Either in tandem with a several-times-a-week walking club, or separately, why not create a book club or a TV/movie club to meet every two weeks? Instead of meeting over wine and hors d’oeuvres, walk and talk! It will engage your brain and steer you away from chatting about the news or day-to-day complaints and create a more dynamic, engaging interaction. Plan ahead what the topic will be—a book you are all reading, a TV show you’re binging on, or a new (or classic) movie you’ve all recently watched. To give it that book club feel, after your walk, stop in the park—under some trees or by a fountain, and have a picnic.
Need some hearty sandwich ideas? Try Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Savoy Cabbage Slaw made with Country Harvest® No Sugar Added 100% Whole Wheat load, or Waldorf Chicken on Country Harvest® 14 Grains Bagels.
4. Take news-free/social-free weekend time-outs
Here’s one you can do with your family. Make it a challenge you can all partake it. Plan to spend an entire weekend not checking the news nor checking any social media. Can you do it? It’s a challenge the whole family can get in to (OK, maybe some members will have to be bribed a bit). Put your phones away in a drawer and make a rule that they can be checked only once in the morning and once in the evening. Then get outside and enjoy the summer. Once you get over the feeling you’ve lost a limb, sweet freedom will wash over you. Breathe deep, and appreciate the slower pace, the lack of information cluttering your mind—and the stillness. As a family, you can take this time to sit around the back patio with a drink and talk—without anyone looking down at their phone. Or pack a picnic and take a hike or bike together.
For a family-pleasing bagel sandwich that goes for lunch or dinner, try our Open-Face Steak Bagel Sandwich with Parmesan Dressing, made with Country Harvest® Everything Bagels.
An open-face steak bagel sandwich on a plate sitting on a blue wooden table.
5. Pick up a racket
Why not make this the summer you take up a new sport (or revisit an old favourite)? Racquet sports are a good bet: They provide a workout, allow you to build skills like reaction time, hand-eye coordination and strategy. They can also be very social and interactive (good for body and soul) and can be played by all ages. Tennis, for example is a sport that can be learned any time in life and can be played well into your senior years. There are many public courts or outdoor tennis clubs that are inexpensive and also have some hours that are open to the public. Ask about lessons.
Pickleball is a similar racket sport that is gaining popularity, and courts are popping up in many cities. Pickleball is a paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, ping pong, and tennis. It creates less strain on the body and involves less cardio, but still gives you a workout. It’s usually played in doubles. Badminton is more versatile as you can set up a badminton net at the park or in your backyard. Another option is ping pong. Many parks have stone ping pong tables set up. Grab the family or some friends, and bring your own balls and mallets, and head to the park for a little tournament.
Bring a cooler of drinks and some sandwiches for a lunch or picnic. Or, before heading out, enjoy a special breakfast featuring Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast, made with Country Harvest® No Sugar Added White with Whole Grains loaf.
6. Get out on the water
Studies show that being by the water slows down our heart rate and reduces stress hormones, boosting our mental health. Sold! And luckily, many of Canada’s cities and towns are situated on the water or near the water. So even if you don’t have a vacation planned or access to a cottage, you can get out on the water to reap the many benefits. While sometimes we resist doing something different even if it is in our own backyard (or neighbouring town), we don’t get around to doing it. Let this summer be different.
If you prefer to stay on land, just walking by the water has its benefits. Stroll on the beach or beside a stream and look for wildlife or rocks and shells with a child, grandchild or best friend. Wake up your senses with a swim in bracing lake water or ocean waves. Paddle boarding is another sport that is gaining popularity for all ages. Rent a paddle board for an hour and head out into the stillness of the water. It’s easier than you think! Or, for a true, get-away-from-it-all experience, get out on a boat. Rent a kayak or canoe: Rowing is a great upper body work-out and like swimming, is low-impact and easy on the knees and other joints. Or, take a break and sit back on a guided tour boat if they are running in your town. Go it alone, if you want to drift along in your own thoughts, or invite others for a relaxing and social experience that will leave you invigorated, relaxed and feeling healthy.
For delicious summer recipes to have before your outdoor activities or to bring along for a picnic, check out our recipes.