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March 14, 2023 • read
10 tips to prepare for a healthy spring
Spring is an exciting time for Canadians as temperatures rise and we get to enjoy the outdoors after what feels like an endless winter. And winter isn’t the kindest season for your mental and physical health either, so it’s the perfect time to start making some changes.
If you have any health concerns this spring, we can help. Maple’s a virtual care platform with Canada’s largest online network of doctors and specialists. Healthcare providers are available from your phone, tablet, or computer, including general practitioners who you can connect with in minutes, 24/7. You can also book an online appointment with an allergist at a time that works for you.
If you’re looking to step into spring in the healthiest way possible this year, here are 10 ways to get started on your own.
Build a workout plan
Regular physical activity can increase your lifespan, so if your workout regime lacks in winter, spring’s the perfect time to pick up the pace. Plus, you can exercise outside and boost your vitamin D levels simultaneously.
Canadian guidelines recommend exercising for at least 2.5 hours per week to achieve health benefits. You should focus on moderate to vigorous aerobic activity each week, broken into sessions of 10 minutes or more.
To build your workout plan, choose activities you’ll enjoy and that are manageable for your body. Many outdoor fitness activities are great if you’re trying to get back in shape, like walking, biking, and even swimming if it’s warm enough outside. These low-impact aerobic activities can all help you build muscle strength and endurance.
A workout buddy can also help you stay committed and accountable, as can joining a team. Don’t let team sports intimidate you if you aren’t particularly athletic or experienced. Many sports, like volleyball or pickleball, are easy to learn and often have beginner leagues.
If you’re not yet convinced that being physically active with others is good for you, the Köhler Effect might change your mind. It’s a phenomenon that occurs when you work together as a team — you’re actually inspired to work harder than you would alone. The reason being learning that others in the group are performing better can boost your efforts, and that someone else is depending on your performance can motivate you to work harder.
Be sure to track how often you’re working out, and try increasing the duration and intensity each week — fitness apps can help take the work out of this.
Finally, don’t look at working out as something you don’t feel like doing. Get into the mindset of how lucky you are to be able to use your body to exercise and get healthy. You might be surprised at how far a positive attitude goes during your new workout plan!
Prioritize eating healthy foods
What better time to prioritize healthy eating habits than spring? You can make a day of visiting farmer’s markets and shopping for organic produce from local growers. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre, which can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Plus, local fruits and veggies are delicious, and the perfect way to “spring clean” your body.
Canada’s Food Guide recommends filling half your plate with vegetables, one quarter with whole grains, and the final quarter with protein. Choose whole foods at the grocery store whenever possible, concentrate on eating healthy fats, like those from fish, nuts, and avocados, and reduce your intake of artery-clogging unhealthy fats by avoiding refined oils and fried foods.
If all this talk of fresh foods has you worrying about your bank account, that’s totally understandable. Luckily, there are many ways to eat healthy while still sticking to your budget, like adding healthy, affordable, plant-based foods into your diet.
You’ll also want to limit added sugar to no more than 12 teaspoons (or 48 grams) per day (for an average of 2,000 calories per day). For reference, just one can of pop contains about 85% of your daily added sugar intake — it can add up quickly! Added sugar is associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and cancer, so check those labels and be sure to replace sugary drinks with water.
Spend more time outdoors
Enjoying time outside isn’t just fun, it’s beneficial for your mental health. Spending time in nature can promote calm and reduce feelings of isolation, among others. The theory is that nature distracts your mind from focusing on negative or anxiety-provoking thoughts.
On the physical side, spending time outside is associated with doing seven extra minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity and 13 fewer minutes of sedentary time. And, you decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stress, high blood pressure, and more when you spend time in green spaces.
Don’t forget your water bottle and sunscreen before you head out too, and be mindful of ticks — they’re most active in spring in summer. Blacklegged (deer) ticks can carry Lyme disease, so avoiding tick bites or safely removing them can help protect you. You should also wear light-coloured clothing, an insect repellant with DEET, and stay on trails since ticks love to hang out in tall grasses and wooded areas.
Hydrate your body
Staying hydrated is crucial for your overall health — around 60% of your body is made up of water, and drinking enough water each day helps your organs and tissues function properly. Additionally, if you’re not taking in enough fluids, dehydration can set in and become a medical emergency.
To get your daily dose of H2O, it’s recommended that adult women drink eight glasses of water a day and men drink 10. But this isn’t always an easy feat if you don’t love gulping down water all day long. If you find it tough to drink this much, you can also get fluids from water-rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber, or celery as well as hot drinks like tea or coffee.
Remember to watch your alcohol intake, too — spring weather means the return of patios and outdoor gatherings, so it’s easy to have more than one or two drinks. But alcohol’s a diuretic, meaning it pushes your body to get rid of excess water through urination, increasing your risk of dehydration. To help combat this, for every glass of alcohol you drink, also drink a glass of water.
Create a sleep schedule
Not getting enough sleep can bring on brain fogginess, trouble concentrating, and moodiness — it happens. Add in the return of daylight saving time, and it can really throw things off.
Making sure you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shuteye a night can help your mind and body function properly throughout the day. Here are some ways to combat daylight saving time and help you create a sleep routine:
- Limit daytime naps
- Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bedtime
- Adjust your room temperature to 18°C each night
- Keep your room dark — this also means avoiding blue light from devices
- Go to bed at the same time every night, including on weekends
Protect your skin
The comeback of picnics, gardening, and outdoor sports in spring is a beautiful thing. But all of that exposure to sunlight can be dangerous for your skin if you aren’t protecting it.
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to the DNA in your skin cells, which could ultimately lead to skin cancer. In 2022, the Canadian Cancer Society estimated that 9,000 Canadians would be diagnosed with skin cancer, and 1,200 would die from melanoma skin cancer — the deadliest type of the disease.
Thankfully, applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher whenever you step outside this spring, even if it’s cloudy, helps block UV radiation from penetrating your skin. For sun exposure, you should also wear sun-protective clothing like hats and loose-fitting clothing like pants, long-sleeved shirts, and skirts to protect yourself.
Take care of your teeth
Brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily and having regular dental check-ups should go without saying, but who doesn’t slip up occasionally? Aside from being crucial for tooth and gum health, oral care has a major effect on your overall health. One study suggests brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Another study found brushing and flossing your teeth regularly may help prevent cognitive decline. That’s because bacterial infection and chronic inflammation of periodontal disease weaken the blood-brain barrier, increasing the risk for cerebrovascular disease and inflammation. Other health conditions related to inflammation from gum disease include pancreatic cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
So, no matter how busy your morning routine is or how tired you are at night, stay on top of your oral care routine so that you can head into spring with a healthy set of chompers.
If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, now’s the time to start. Smoking isn’t just bad for you because you’ve been told by adults your whole life. It’s connected to at least two dozen diseases and health conditions, including cancer and heart disease.
On top of that, 100 Canadians die each day from a smoking-related illness. However, when you stop smoking, you immediately cut your risk of certain smoking-related diseases.
With that being said, quitting smoking can be an uphill battle, especially if you’ve smoked for a long time. But, with the right tools, you absolutely can do it.
Here are a few ways to get started on your quitting journey:
- Talk to your healthcare provider about helpful services or medications
- Think about your tobacco use — when and why you’re smoking, write down your triggers and what you’ll do instead when they occur, and imagine what your life would be like tobacco-free
- Create a quit plan — things like replacing tobacco with an activity break, eating healthy foods every three to four hours so you aren’t hungry, talking to friends and family for support, and getting rid of lighters or anything else that might set off your cravings
- Set a date to quit — if this feels overwhelming, it’s a good idea to start reducing the amount you smoke leading up to this date
Learn about your family’s health history
Regular health check-ups are important to stay on top of your overall well-being, but knowing your family’s health history is just as crucial. Doing so opens the doors to potential risks for diseases and conditions, helping your doctor know what to watch out for to aid in keeping you healthy.
If you know that your family history involves certain health issues and diseases, it’s essential to schedule screenings and doctor’s appointments and to make appropriate lifestyle changes to lower your risk.
To start learning about your family health history, try:
- Asking questions (at a family gathering, for example)
- Looking at death certificates and medical records, if available
- Gathering information about relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, and nephews). Ask about any major medical conditions and causes of death, the age of disease onset and death, and ethnic background.
- Write down the information and share it with your doctor
Another way to stay on top of your health is with a general health assessment. This comprehensive, preventative check-up can identify risk factors and help detect any irregularities that could indicate a larger problem. With Maple, the assessment takes place online, and if there’s a health concern, it can help your provider create the right treatment plan for you.
Watch out for allergens
There aren’t many downsides to spring — except for the return of allergies. Pollen from trees and grass is the biggest factor for seasonal allergies. If you have allergic rhinitis, your body thinks it’s under attack and unleashes those unpleasant symptoms like a runny nose, itchy eyes, and more.
And if you’ve never experienced allergies, you aren’t necessarily in the clear either. It’s still possible to develop seasonal allergies as an adult. To protect yourself from spending spring with a stuffy face, try to minimize exposure to allergens. You can do this by:
- Checking your local pollen forecast
- Changing your clothes and showering after being outside
- Avoiding gardening, like mowing the lawn or pulling weeds
- Using an air purifier in your home
- Vacuuming often and doing deep cleanings to get rid of dust mites
- Keeping windows shut
- Wearing sunglasses to avoid getting pollen in your eyes
How Maple can help you stay healthy this spring
Making small changes is worth it to get ready for a healthy spring. After all, being proactive about your health means having more time to enjoy the nice weather outside!
If you’ve tried everything for your allergies in the past but nothing has worked, we can help. Canadian-licensed allergists on Maple can diagnose, treat, and manage allergies and immunologic conditions and may provide allergy testing, if needed, so that you can get relief.
For other common health concerns like UTIs, coughs, rashes, stomach issues, and more, you can see general practitioners 24/7, any time, anywhere. Yes, that even means getting a prescription in minutes if you’re already well into your first road trip of the season. And, if you don’t have a family doctor or need immediate care, doctors on Maple are always available to help — no matter the season.
This blog was developed by our team and reviewed by a medical professional.
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