As summer dwindles in our rearview mirrors and we start to gear up for crisp fall days filled with fuzzy blankets, steaming soups, and pumpkin spice-flavored everything, we mustn’t let our workout and wellness regimens get swept up like the colorful autumn leaves and whisked out the window. And for many of us harvest-happy, sweater weather-loving folks, this is also a time to welcome change.
But before you bust out the trick-or-treats, remember that balance is vital to leading a healthy lifestyle. That said, how do we keep our healthy habits while fully embracing this year’s fall fever? Try these strategies to keep your vigor all autumn long:
Scare away the winter blues. It’s important to exercise year round, but it can be even more necessary during the fall and winter seasons. Whether you struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or just a mild case of the winter blues, a daily workout, which releases feel-good endorphins, can help improve your mood.
“Regular exercise can reduce the risk of all types of depression, including seasonal depression,” says Jen Carter, PhD, ABPP and Lead Sport Psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It is especially helpful to exercise outdoors to decrease seasonal depression.” Our advice? Try walking or jogging outside to enjoy the unbe-leaf-able autumn colors, or consider trying something new—like going to a different gym or workout class. There’s no bigger motivator than a new challenge.
Cozy up at the beach. Bonfire, anyone? You can still be a beach bum during the fall and winter, just ask San Franciscans. Grab a couple of warm blankets and some friends or family and head to the beach for the day. A long brisk walk, jog or run along the water will surely fulfill your fall fever cravings. And remember—if you’re setting up a bonfire, make sure you’re in a designated fire-safe zone by checking the National Park Services’ website here.
Hit your steps. Struggling to hit your 10,000 steps for the day? Consider partaking in fall festivities such as haunted hayrides, corn mazes, apple or pumpkin picking. This is a great way to rack up those steps without even realizing it. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, break out your rake and get an early start on the piles of fallen leaves in your front yard. Boo-yah!
Beat cabin fever. We’re all creatures of habit sometimes—and everyone knows this is the season to binge watch your favorite shows. But there’s a difference between cozying up on the couch for a movie and being a total couch potato. Consider signing up for a fall marathon or sports league in your area to keep you motivated. Or, maybe marathons aren’t your style? Grab some friends and organize your own game of flag football or kickball on a Saturday afternoon. Then treat yourself to some hot cider afterwards. How ’bout them apples?
Break out your cauldron. It’s time to dust the cobwebs off your Crock-Pot (or slow cooker) and break out grandma’s recipe book, because there’s no better way to celebrate the arrival of autumn vegetables than by brewing up some delicious immune-boosting broths and soups. Think pumpkins, butternut squash, and cauliflower, to name a few. You can also keep warm by drinking seasonal teas like spiced apple, harvest pumpkin, and pumpkin spiced chai.
Embrace autumnal superfoods. Maximizing your seasonal food intake not only supports local farmers, it helps to preserve the environment, and gives you a broader variety of food in your diet. Plus, it’s cheaper.
Everyone knows the dessert classics–pumpkin cheesecake, apple cobbler, and sweet potato pie. But why not change it up? Try toasting some pumpkin seeds, which are high in protein and can improve heart health. Or pick up some fresh apples (sweet or tart), roast them with a sprinkle of cinnamon and walnuts, and you have yourself a fiber-filled snack. Other fall fruits and veggies include brussel sprouts, pears, squash, sweet potatoes and pomegranates.
Tune in to transformation. The hustle and bustle of the summer is behind us and autumn is typically the time to reflect, relax, and open our minds to change. Try meditating or doing yoga, even trick or treat yo’self to those pumpkin-scented candles you had your eye on to make your home or space feel cozy. It’s not all hocus pocus; this season is a great time to reset and recharge right before the holiday craze sets in!
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