Remember in your youth, when you could spend an entire day in the sun at Six Flags, riding roller coaster after roller coaster, eating all kinds of junk food, then go to a night game at Globe Life Park, eat more junk food, and sit in a ballpark seat for four hours?
That’s how I spent my 20s (only I was going to Kansas City Royals games and KC’s amusement park, Worlds of Fun.) Then 30 came for me – and suddenly after a few rides and a corn dog, I was ready to crawl into bed.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can still enjoy ballgames, amusement parks, and beach trips without damaging your back, skin or waistline!
At the Ballpark
- For your back: Often known as “bleacher back,” many of us are familiar with the nagging lower-back pain that develops after sitting in the stands for hours. Neurosurgeon Nimesh H. Patel, MD, neurosurgeon with Methodist Brain and Spine Institute shares three key ways to prevent it:
- Sit on a cushion to ease the tension off your back
- Stand up every 45 minutes and stretch to realign your posture
- Remove your wallet or phone from your back pocket to even out your posture and prevent sciatica, often experienced as a weakness, numbness or pain in the leg or foot.
- For your skin: Remember to put on sunscreen BEFORE you go to the park, for both day and night games. For day games, reapply during the 7th inning stretch. Wearing your favorite baseball hat does more than support your team. It also adds an extra layer of wrinkle-preventing sun protection for your face. And it’s not only balding men who need to protect their heads! Both men and women with full heads of hair can get sunburn on the scalp, especially at the part line.
- For your waistline: Globe Life Park has some healthy options in Centerfield Plaza. The market has sandwiches, fruit and salads. And did you know you can bring your own food into the park? Why not save money and calories? I grew up going to a LOT of Royals games, and we always brought food from home. Make sure to go to the Rangers' website to learn what can be brought into the park. And even if you want to partake in any high calorie beverages, make sure to hydrate with water in between each drink.
At the Amusement Park
- For your back: Rollercoasters forcefully throw your body in different directions. A quick stop sends you forward, a sudden turn causes your back to twist and rotate. Whiplash is not limited to fender benders,” Dr. Patel says. “If you have known neck problems, you shouldn’t ride roller coasters, period. Thrill seekers without preexisting issues can minimize risk of injury by doing neck stretches and strengthening exercises before and after their amusement park rides.”
- For your skin: same rules you should follow at the ballpark apply at Six Flags. Make sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you go on any water rides or go to Hurricane Harbor.
- For your waistline: Six Flags Over Texas actually has a webpage for healthy options, but some of the menu items look…well, not so healthy. Methodist Health System Registered Dietitian Caroline Susie says: “Believe it or not, you can find some healthy options at Six Flags. Look for the “Go Fresh Café”. Café menu items include salads with light vinaigrette dressings, fresh fruit and lower calorie sandwiches and wraps. Keep sauces and condiments to side. Instead of fried side items, Six Flags offers fresh fruit and veggies like apples and baby carrots. Skip the smoothie. Smoothies can be very high in sugar and calories. Opt for water over soda to save on calories and adding sugar.”
On the Golf Course
- For your back: Walking the links — not to mention a not-so-perfect golf swing — can stress the neck and spine and lead to other injuries over time. “The most common complaint from golfers is low-back pain,” Dr. Patel says. “Because your muscles are all connected, though, you need to stretch more than your back. Shoulders, hips, and hamstrings — stretch them all.” Dr. Patel also suggests:
- Choosing a golf bag with dual straps and a stand. If you walk the course, dual straps will even the load on your back, and bag stands will reduce repetitive bending.
- Starting your warm-up with small-iron swings and working your way up to large woods.
- Reducing inflammation for your next round with postgame stretching, hydration, and anti-inflammatories.
- For your waistline: Take turns driving the golf cart and walking to holes. Bring your own Arnold Palmers with unsweetened tea and sugar-free lemonade.
On the beach
- For your back: Staying hydrated at the beach is important for preventing heat related illnesses. It’s also a good way to protect your back. “Keeping yourself hydrated means you’re detoxifying your body and decreasing inflammation,” Dr. Patel says. “Water also helps get rid of excess lactic acid—a byproduct of muscle waste—that causes stiffness and soreness.”
- For your skin: I mean…it’s obvious, right? Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! But it’s not as obvious as you might think. Here are some tips for burn prevention:
- Reapply at least every two hours, or every hour if you’re in the water or sweating
- Learn from the painful mistake I made during “The Great Sanibel Island Burn of 2011” – use lotion all over first, then the spray as an extra layer for anything you missed. Apply BEFORE you go to the beach, otherwise the spray could blow away in the wind, leaving you unprotected.
- Make sure your sunscreen hasn’t expired
- Spend SOME time under an umbrella! No sunscreen can block 100% of the UV rays!
- For your waistline: Skip the food trucks or beachside restaurants and pack your own lunch and snacks. Packing a cooler full of your family’s favorites will help you save calories and money! Don’t forget the hand sanitizer. Suzie says, “Small finger sandwiches are easy to eat. Opt for whole grain bread with low sodium deli meat topped with your favorite vegetables (like sliced heirloom tomato and spinach). Pair your finger sandwiches with vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli florets. Entice your kiddos to dig in by serving the veggies with a low fat dipping option like hummus or low fat ranch dressing.” Dehydration is something to be mindful of while outside. Susie says many fruits are high in water content and electrolytes. “Try sliced cantaloupe, honeydew melon or papaya. All are high in potassium in addition to water. Watermelon, citrus fruits and kiwi are also high water content fruits that are also high in vitamin C.”
Have an amazing and safe summer, everyone!
Assistant Vice President of External Relations
Methodist Health System
Stacy Covitz oversees the public relations team to ensure media coverage and handle media requests. She works with Methodist's leadership team to develop community relations plans that support Methodist Health System. Stacy also supervises print and digital internal and external publications, including Shine, the consumer health magazine. Away from work, you’ll likely see Stacy out with her dog, Maddie, or cheering for the Kansas City Royals.