So the autumn equinox has just past. We feel the chill in the air and notice the leaves beginning to change from greens to yellows, oranges and reds. As a continuation of my article from last month, which you can read here, let’s explore some additional fall fitness tips focusing on exercise and its implementation. All my suggestions presume that you are in good health and don’t have a medical condition that limits physical activity. Please consult with your health care provider if starting a new exercise regimen.
We all have heard that exercise is important for our overall health. But how many of us lack the motivation to either begin an exercise program or maintain it for the long term? Life becomes busy, family obligations build up and an early dusk all contribute to sabotage our best intentions. How do we make fitness rank higher in the equation of our overall wellness? Think of it as the 3 C’s – commitment, convenience and consistency.
- Commitment: I like to have clients come up with activities that they will enjoy. If you hate an activity you’ll never stick with it. So try something that sounds appealing or an activity that you know you’ll enjoy. I encourage my clients to set up an appointment with themselves for exercise. Mark it down on the calendar (at a convenient time) just like any other date that doesn’t get rescheduled unless of a dire emergency.
- Convenience: Whatever the activity, it should be easy for you to attend. If you have to drive a far distance, it’s unlikely that you will continue for extended periods. The activity may depend on whether you work full-time, stay at home with your children or have a medical condition that limits what you can do.
- Consistency: New behaviors typically take a month to form. It is why gyms are so busy the first few weeks into the new year when everyone is working on their resolutions. To help with motivation, try exercising with a workout partner, create a challenge to accomplish or even try a new workout, which will use some different muscle groups.
Of course, we can always work out at the gym. But since we’ll be indoors soon enough when winter arrives, let’s explore some other outdoor exercise options. Studies have found that exercising outdoors is associated with greater energy and a better mental attitude. It also lowers tension, anger and depression. Study participants reported more enjoyment of outdoor activities and a belief that they would continue in the future.
- Walking is the most economical activity and can be incorporated easily into one’s routine. Try walking at lunch if you’re working at an office. You can even get your fellow co-workers as walking buddies. If you are a parent, you can walk around the field as your little ones have soccer practice or a game. An evening perambulation with your significant other is a great way to unwind and connect. Calories burned (at a moderate pace): 200/hr.*
- Hiking is a great activity in which to get the entire family involved. Not only will you get a great workout, especially by doing some challenging terrain, but you can engage the senses with the fall foliage, forest smells and animal sounds. The uneven terrain on most hiking trails will allow the stabilizing muscles in the ankles, knees and legs to develop as well as improve your core and balance. Calories burned: 350/hr.*
- Playing soccer, Frisbee or flag football with your family or friends is another great way to have some together time. The kids love running outside and time outdoors has the added benefit of relaxing the mind and calming us. Calories burned: 472/hr.*
- Raking leaves from the lawn or making leaf piles will increase your aerobic capacity as well as tone your core and upper body. If you rake in the front of your body, you will get a good shoulder workout. And remember to rake using both arms to get an even workout. Calories burned: 254/hr.*
- Horseback riding can be a fun activity if you want something new. It works on muscles that you usually don’t use. Be prepared for a bit of soreness if you’re new to riding. You’ll be able to appreciate the outdoors from a different vantage point. Calories burned: 236/hr.*
- Running is great to do in the fall when the temperatures have cooled off. If you trail run, the ground is softer and more forgiving to your joints. Trail running typically will burn 10% more calories than running on a treadmill or pavement. There are also many 5K and 10K races held in communities in which you can participate. Or even try a local running group (running stores typically have info on these). Calories burned (for a 10-minute mile): 590/hr.*
Note: * connotes 130 lb. person. Calculations are from the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Obviously this list is not complete. One note about calories burned: if you weigh more, you will typically burn more calories. Other great outdoor fall activities include in-line skating, apple picking, mountain or road biking, gardening, kayaking, golf, tennis and outdoor boot camp.
There are some practical considerations that any outdoor exerciser should consider. While it’s more comfortable exercising in cooler weather, you want to dress accordingly. Wear layers to be able to adjust for temperature variations. Don reflective clothing so you’ll be visible as the light dims with the shorter days. And remember to stay hydrated. Even though you may not get as hot and may not be thirsty as you were during the summer, your body still needs the extra hydration.
On a final note, eating well as you embark on exercise is vital. The food you consume will fuel your activities. Good quality protein will ensure that the muscles fibers can be strengthened. The end of our summer bounty – tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and apples – has wonderful nutrients that are important for our health. For a great salad recipe, see http://www.bettereatingcoach.com/recipe-late-springearly-summer-2012.html. Other wonderful antioxidant-rich foods to include are cranberries, pomegranates, pumpkins, parsnips, kale, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Garlic, ginger and cinnamon are warming herbs and spices that help in autumn as the weather changes and cold and flu season arrive.
As you can see, there are lots of activities to try for fall. So make a new commitment this season!
© Geri Wohl, Better Eating Coach