Why Summer Might Be the Best Season for Your Brain

Not only is June Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, it’s also the perfect time to focus on your brain health. Here are 5 reasons why!

1. Summer fruits

Sure, you can get most fruits year-round, but eating fresh-picked fruit makes for better-tasting produce. And summer is peak season for antioxidant-rich fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and watermelon.  Antioxidants reduce inflammation, which is key to preventing heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions. 

Additionally, berries contain flavonoids, which research shows help improve memory and reduce cognitive decline in older adults. The darker the berry, the higher the antioxidant content. And watermelon, in addition to being low-calorie and refreshing, helps boost hydration, which is also vital for brain health, especially in summer’s heat.

2. Vitamin D 

Do you know what’s better than catching some rays? Catching rays while reducing your risk of cognitive impairment! Low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline. Fortunately, the primary source of this vital vitamin is sunlight, which is plentiful in the summertime.

But, you may worry, isn’t sun exposure linked to skin cancer? It is. And sunscreen, which blocks harmful UV rays, can interfere with vitamin D production. However, an Australian study found that even with a thick coat of SPF 15 sunscreen, sunbathers were still able to get a decent boost of the sunshine vitamin. 

3. Spending time outdoors 

Between busy lives and spending too much time online, many people have trouble taking the time to enjoy the outdoors and nature. Fortunately, the pull to put down your device in the summer is stronger than on a cloudy, cold day. And once you get outside, you’ll be rewarded. 

Research shows that spending time outdoors, whether it’s a hike in the mountains or a stroll around your local park, improves your mood and lowers stress levels. It can also improve cognitive function. Studies show that exposure to natural environments fights mental fatigue, replenishes cognitive resources, and improves working memory and focus. The longer you spend in nature, the better. 

4. Exercise

Summer shuts down many of the common excuses for not exercising. Can’t get to, or afford, a gym? Who needs one when the weather is warm and sunny! Go for a walk, a bike ride, or play a sport like tennis or volleyball. Don’t have time to exercise? With the long days, it’s easier to squeeze in time before or after work or errands. In fact, Americans consistently exercise more in the spring and summer than in the fall and winter, according to a Gallup poll.

Exercise, after all, is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and brain health. Regular exercise, such as brisk walking, can improve brain function on multiple levels. One way is by improving your mood and sleep, which reduces stress and anxiety that can impair cognitive performance. It also decreases inflammation and risk for many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and improves blood flow to the brain. 

5. Time to socialize

Socializing is fun, but it also helps stimulate your attention and memory. So, when you’re engaged in good conversation, your brain is getting a workout, too.

One long-term study shows that social contact reduces the risk of dementia and that the more you socialize, the higher your cognitive reserve. Conversely, another study found that loneliness can increase your risk of dementia by 40 percent. Longer days, warmer weather, and, for many, a more relaxed schedule provides more opportunity to get social. 

Joelle Klein