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It’s already past the summer solstice, but you may have decided that this summer would be the perfect time to get into shape and lose some weight.  The nice weather encourages us to head outdoors, the farmer’s markets are providing a variety of fresh foods.  What better combination to getting a little healthier?

Here are 6 steps to getting fitter in summer:

1. Base your summer diet on all those fresh veggies and fresh fruits available.  Steam them, grill them, mix them in a salad. Fresh whole foods are the basis of a healthy diet and summertime is the easiest time to get them. Practice thinking of the veggie you are serving at a meal, first, then consider which meat would make a complimentary side dish for it.  

2. Build lean muscle mass.  Yes, this means heading to the gym to do some workouts.  One pound of muscle takes up less space on your body than an equal pound of fat does.  Think pillar vs. pillow.  You want the pillar.

Lean muscle increases your metabolism, which means you burn more calories all the time.  The best work outs are 30-45 minutes in length, and consist of upper-body exercises that push, pull or press, plus lower body moves that squat, lunge and step-up.  These exercises all use multiple sets of muscles to build stability along with strength.

3. Stick with whole grains, but not too much  While I endorse consuming veggies and some fruit, consider these the carbs in your diet.  Limit your grain consumption to 2-3 servings a day of whole grains (brown rice, bulger wheat, oatmeal, quinoa) and view ground grain products (anything made with a flour) as weekly treats.  

4. Get enough rest.  Our bodies heal in sleep.  For the first few hours of sleep, a wrecking crew of hormones and antibodies rush through our system tearing down the cellular damage that occurred that day.  After about 5 hours, the body starts sending out the good guys who rebuild, restore, and repair that damage.  Too little rest and that important repair work never happens.  

5. Get active.  Whether you take your dog for a daily walk/run, swim at the neighborhood pool, or play a friendly game of tennis, get active enough to raise your heart rate.  Cardio strengthens your immune system, improves breathing, and reduces stress hormones.  It also may lead to better sleep.  

If you want to lose weight, encorporate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into your routine 2-3 times a week.  This is any cardio activity where you push yourself to 85% MHR or higher for brief intervals throughout the workout.  I like 1 minute out of three because it’s easy for me to track.  But any interval that’s approximately 2/3rd at 60% MHR and 1/3 at 85% MHR will do.  

Studies have shown that doing only one 20 minute session a week can increase oxygen efficiency in an adult after the first session.  Use more oxygen and use it efficiently, and your body burns more calories.  

6. Build social activities into your week.  When we experience pleasant social interactions, our brains release chemicals that lower blood pressure, slow our breathing, and fight the signs of stress.  

Better Every Year is the goal of writer Debra Roby. She has been published at [Link Removed]_

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