An Online Wellness Magazine produced by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Cool Summer

Easy ways to stay healthy while staying away from the heat

Do you want to stay active this summer but don’t like being hot or dehydrated? Even if you like to get out in the summer sun — whether it’s running, hiking or playing sports — you run the risk of heat stroke or worse. 

Fear not, for it is possible to stay healthy and reinvigorated without having to endure the constant heat of the season. This article provides simple tips for keeping fit and cool — from the office to the pool (and even in the kitchen!) 

Office exercises                                 

Many of us sit in our office chairs for hours every day. Sitting for long periods of time is linked to a number of health concerns, so it is important to take the time to stretch, stand and move around during the day.

As an individual who has long enjoyed the benefits of an active lifestyle, both competitively and casually, Angela Weatherill, an employee at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), recognizes the negative impact on your body of sitting all day. She explains that too much sitting can cause many issues in the musculoskeletal structure including shortening and weakening of the abdominal muscles, which can contribute to imbalances when walking.

Doing small exercises throughout the day can help this imbalance and strengthen your core structure. For Weatherill, exercising isn't only about staying fit. "Staying active creates quality of life; it adds balance and releases your mind after a long day," Weatherill says. 

Corey Jefferson, wellness coordinator and certified fitness trainer at UTHealth Recreation Center, suggests the following exercises to do at work (as demonstrated by Weatherill). 

Arms-Behind-Your-Head Stretch

  • Sit down in your chair with your hands behind your head.
  • Interlock your fingers and move your elbows toward each other.
  • Lean back into the stretch.
  • Breathe in, and hold for 20 seconds.
  • Breathe out.
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times. 

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Arms-Extended Stretch

  • Stand up tall with good posture.
  • Extend your arms out to the side (parallel to the floor) and rotate both arms as far as you can comfortably in both directions 3 times.
  • Then extend your arms over your head and reach as far as you can comfortably as you rotate your arms in both directions 3 times.
  • Next, extend your arms in front of you (parallel to the floor) and rotate both arms as far as you can comfortably in both directions 3 times. 
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Hamstring Stretch

  • Place your chair against your desk with the chair facing away from the desk.
  • Sit on the front end of the chair and extend your legs.
  • Point your toes toward your head and keep your knees straight.
  • Lean forward and reach for your toes.
  • While reaching, exhale and extend your hands as far as you can.
  • Do not bounce.
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times. 
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Jump-Rope Simulation

  • Do this work out by mimicking the jump rope movement with your hands.
  • Make sure to land light on your feet.
  • Do 15-20 jumps.
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times.  
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Knee Lifts

  • Sit down on the front of your chair with good posture.
  • Place your hands on the sides of the chair or on the armrests.
  • While keeping your back straight and abdominals tight, lift your knees to your chest or as high as you can take them and then take them toward the floor.
  • Do not touch the floor. Simply bring the knees up and down for a set of 12-15.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times.  
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Chair Squats

  • Place your chair against the desk facing away from the desk.
  • Make sure the chair is stable and will not move or roll away.
  • Sit in the front chair with the knees at a 90 degree angle.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor and shoulder width apart.
  • Stand up from this position without using hand rails and then sit back down.
  • Repeat this 15-20 times and do 2 to 3 sets. 
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Desk Top or Wall Push-Ups

  • Position yourself a few feet away from your desk (wall) with your feet together. Hands are shoulder width away from one another, and your palms on the edge of your desk (wall).
  • Lower your body down to the desk (wall) and push yourself back to the starting position.
  • Keep your abdominals tight and do 12-15 repetitions for 2 to 3 sets. 
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Water workouts

If you don’t want to stay inside all summer, you can still keep cool by exercising in a pool or lake. And, you can exercise longer in water than on land without increased effort and joint and/or muscle pain.  

Jefferson sat down with us to answer the following questions regarding the benefits of water-based exercising.

Who benefits from water-based exercises? Why is it good for the average person?
Exercising in the water is great for all ages and fitness levels, because just like on land, everybody needs to get moving. Anything you can do to get off the couch is good. Water-based exercises are especially beneficial for people with arthritis and fibromyalgia. The buoyancy of the water helps soothe the joints and reduces the weight effect to create low-impact exercises that aren’t as tough on the muscles and joints. Also, the warmer the water, the more soothing it is on the body.

Besides the additional element, what is the difference of exercising in water versus on land?
Exercising in the water is just as important as working out on land. The water is more therapeutic and can also become a great cardio workout. Since you typically don’t have to worry about overheating, you can work out hard in the water without ever realizing it. Therefore, make sure you stay hydrated! There are many levels of exercise you can do and water-based exercises are not strictly for swimmers. Throughout the year, when clients are tired, worn down and need a change of pace, I move them to the water for workouts. Everybody thinks when they get in the water it’s going to be easy but that’s not necessarily the case.

Benefits of water-based exercise include:

  • Swimmers have about half the risk of death compared to inactive people.
  • Two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, can lead to improved health of diabetics and people with heart disease.
  • Improves mental health, and exercise therapy in warm water has been shown to decrease depression.
  • Improves the quality of life and decreases disability for older adults.
  • Improves or maintains the bone health of post-menopausal women. (Although swimming does not replace weight-bearing exercise such as walking/running on land or using weights, which are necessary for post-menopausal bone density, it does improve strength, flexibility and core muscle tone.)
  • Improves use of affected joints without worsening symptoms for people with arthritis.
  • Can decrease anxiety for people with fibromyalgia.
  • Parents of children with developmental disabilities find that recreational activities, such as swimming, improve family connections. 

Jefferson suggests the following tips and techniques to help you cool off without cooling down in your pool or at the lake this summer (as demonstrated by UTHealth Rec Center summer swim instructor, Walter Pugil): 

Total Body Stretch
Facing the side of the pool, grip the edge with your hands. Bend your knees and press your feet against the pool wall as you inhale. While exhaling, move hips back. Do not lock your knees or elbows or strain your back. Gently ease into the stretch. Repeat 10 times.
What it works: This stretch targets your hamstrings, quadriceps, low back and shoulder girdle.

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Waist Trimmer
Place your back against the pool wall with your arms along the edge for support. Draw the knees to your chest and then extend your legs straight ahead. Inhaling, swing legs to your left and then to your right and back to the center. As you exhale, move legs to front and withdraw to chest. Repeat this 10 times. Keep your back pressed against the wall throughout the motion.
What it works: This exercise targets your rectus abdominis, obliques and lower back muscles.  

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Place a pool noodle between your legs so that there is half of it in front of you and half behind you. Pedal your legs like you are riding a bicycle and move your arms in a running or breast stroke motion. Perform this movement all the way across the pool.
What it works: This exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, your core and upper back muscles.

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Seated Kickboard Breast Stroke
Slide the kickboard under your bottom and keep your knees bent. Sit upright and move your arms in a breast stroke motion as you move forward across the pool. Once you get to the end of the pool, face the same direction and go backwards across the pool.
What it works: This exercise targets the upper back, triceps, trapezius muscle, shoulder girdle and rectus abdominis.

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