12 of the Worst Unhealthy Habits to Avoid This Summer

After a long and cold winter, the bright summer sun and warm breeze can feel amazing. You’re likely to get outside more often and enjoy fun outdoor activities, which will make you feel better overall.

There are actual scientific reasons why summer makes us feel good. Sunlight has a direct effect on our brains, boosting levels of serotonin and other “good-mood” neurotransmitters. Getting out in nature is healing and has been shown in studies to help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. All that fresh air also helps fight off the bacteria and viruses that plague us in the winter, so we’re likely to be healthier overall.

Unfortunately, we can counteract all these beneficial effects by indulging in bad summer habits. Below are 12 of the most common and what to do instead to keep those good feelings going all summer long.

12 Bad Summer Habits to Avoid

1. Staying Up Too Late

We all love those long summer days when the sun stays out until close to 9 o’clock and even 10 o’clock at night. Our brains naturally respond to the increased light and can trick us into thinking we ought to stay up later. With all that sunshine, it’s easy to want to change our routines too as we fulfill that natural inner urge to play more often.

A good night’s sleep is critical for health, and most studies recommend seven to eight hours per night. The best way to make sure you regularly get the sleep you need is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, regardless of the light available.

So, try to avoid staying up too late, at least on a regular basis. Although you may be able to catch up on lost sleep on the weekends, one recent study found that doing so is likely to lead to weight gain.

2. Indulging in One Too Many Cocktails

What’s summer without one of those fruity alcoholic drinks, complete with a maraschino cherry and miniature umbrella? It’s all part of the season but be careful. Although icy, fruity drinks taste wonderful on a hot day, they can add extra calories to your daily intake quickly, potentially causing you to pack on unwanted extra pounds.

Remember too that most of these yummy treats are high in sugar, so choose ice-cold water most of the time to stay hydrated and save the cocktails and other juicy indulgences for special occasions.

3. Drinking Too Many Sodas

Like cocktails, sodas have a unique appeal when it’s hot outside. Nothing quite replaces the feel of those bubbles going down your throat, and there’s no doubt that these drinks can be refreshing.

Studies have linked regular intake of sodas to several health problems, including weight gain ― particularly belly fat ― insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, joint pain, fatty liver, heart disease, and cancer. For optimal health, it’s best to avoid most of the time.

The good news is that there are several healthier options on the market now that give you those cool bubbles without all the extra sugar and calories. Choose flavored water or seltzer or make your own flavored water by cutting up fruit into a pitcher of water, then letting it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

4. Burning Your Skin

After a long winter spent mostly indoors, your skin is unprepared for those bright summer rays. Don’t forget to give yourself time to adjust. You can burn easily during your first few outings, which increases your risk of skin cancer. Instead, expose your skin for short periods at a time, gradually extending those periods as you develop a tan.

It takes only about 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure to get the vitamin D you need, so be sure to apply sunscreen after that or use hats and clothing to protect your skin.

Whatever you do, stay away from tanning beds. They pump out large amounts of ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, and UVA rays penetrate more deeply and are believed to be the main cause of premature aging and skin cancer.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, using indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 can increase your risk of melanoma ― the deadliest form of skin cancer ― by 59 percent. Research also indicates that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year.

5. Forgetting Sunglasses

Just as your skin needs sun protection, your eyes do as well. Long-term exposure to the sun without protection has been found to increase the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration later in life. Excessive amounts of UV radiation can also lead to photokeratitis, which is like a sunburn of the eyes and can be painful.

Look for sunglasses that offer broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB radiation, then be sure to wear them every time you go out.

6. Blasting a Poorly Maintained Air Conditioner

Air conditioners can be a huge blessing on a hot day. Sometimes, they may even be life-saving in certain harsh locations. However, turning them on without checking them first isn’t the best for your health.

In one 2008 study, researchers analyzed data from 97 air-conditioned United States office buildings. They found that many were poorly maintained and, therefore, were associated with increased upper respiratory symptoms, eye irritation, fatigue and difficulty concentrating and even skin symptoms, such as rash and hives.

The problem is that most A/C systems rely on moisture and condensation to work, so they can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi. If you’re not regularly cleaning yours, it could also be a source of dust mites, mold and pollen.

The best defense is a well-maintained system. Those with anti-allergen filters can even help you avoid respiratory and asthma symptoms.

7. Avoiding Exercise

It’s common to exercise more in the summer since the nice weather makes it easier most of the time. However, if it gets super-hot in your area, your motivation is likely to wane.

Try to have a backup plan in place for those hot days. In other words, don’t give up your gym membership or in-home equipment. Better yet, switch it up to enjoy some hot weather activities like swimming, water balloon fights, and various water sports.

8. Not Removing Makeup

After a fun day spent outside — or even after a long day at work — you may feel too tired to go through an entire skin care routine before bed. Neglecting to remove your makeup before you go to sleep, however, can be disastrous for your skin.

Leaving makeup on your face, especially after a hot day, increases the risk of breakouts, eye irritation, dry skin, and premature aging. Worse, it means that your night serum or cream isn’t likely to work well as it will have trouble absorbing past the makeup.

Makeup cleaning wipes work great in a pinch, but your best approach is to clean off the makeup first, then cleanse skin with a gentle cleanser and a rotating skin brush to make sure your skin is squeaky clean before bed.

9. Forgetting to Floss

Just as you may not feel like cleaning the makeup off your face on a warm summer night, you may also feel including to avoid flossing. Unfortunately, that would be a bad decision as a lack of flossing can lead to bad breath, cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.

If you can’t make yourself sit down with that little piece of string, choose a water irrigator instead. They’re faster and will likely work even better when it comes to keeping your mouth clean and healthy.

10. Indulging in Too Many Unhealthy Barbecues

One of the things many people love about summer is the chance to pull out the grill. Asking friends and neighbors over for a juicy hamburger or hot dog is representative of summer as you can get.

Unfortunately, traditional barbecue food is often not very healthy. The meat is heated from below, and the fat drips onto the hot coals. Smoke rises and coats the meat, and that smoke is likely to contain a lot of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from the partially burned fat. These chemicals have been linked to causing cancer.

Meat also contains creatine, which is a healthy amino acid, but when you cook the meat — particularly if you use high heat — a chemical reaction turns that creatine into compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have also been linked to cancer.

To barbecue healthier:

  • Keep your grill clean; brush off any charred buildup before cooking.
  • Line the grill with foil perforated with holes to protect the meat from the smoke.
  • Precook the meat in the microwave for a couple of minutes, and then scorch it briefly on the barbecue.
  • Choose fish and skinless chicken breasts rather than red meat.
  • Keep your portion sizes low.
  • Soak the meat in a marinade, which helps protect it from cancer-causing chemicals. Some marinades made with spices like sage, rosemary, and garlic contain antioxidants that eliminate HCAs naturally. Marinating beef in red wine for six hours has also been found to decrease carcinogens.
  • Cook at a lower heat level as it helps you avoid HCAs.
  • Grill some vegetables along with your meat.
  • Trim away visible fat on the meat before barbecuing.

11. Drinking Water From a Garden Hose

This can be tempting when you’re outside working and playing hard, but you’d be best to avoid it. Bacteria can build up in the hose, putting you at risk for infection. If you’re using a vinyl hose, there is a risk that of drinking chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) and even lead along with the water. Keep a bottle of water handy instead.

12. Wearing Flip-flops Too Much

Flip-flops may help protect your feet at the pool, but wearing them frequently or worse, all the time is horrible for your feet. They don’t support your feet at all, which can lead to foot pain from lack of arch support, tendinitis, and sprained ankles. They expose your feet to bacteria, viral and fungal infections, and they destroy your heels, accentuating the heel-strike with every step you take.

Flip-flops also increase the risk of blisters and can permanently damage your toes. When you wear them, your toes have to work hard to keep the shoe on your foot, which can cause hammertoe over time. If you have bunions, they’ll make them worse, and they can alter your posture in ways that lead to ankle, knee and hip pain. If you drive with flip-flops, it’s easy for one to slide off your foot and become a wedge under one of your pedals, potentially leading to a crash.

The flip-flops you buy may be made with toxic materials like BPA-laden plastics. Choose quality, supportive sandals and sneakers instead.