Cold weather exercise and outdoor workouts have two fundamentalist camps: those who get out there and those who don’t. For some, the cooler temperatures are an indication it’s time to hunker down inside their home, to catch up on favorite shows or movies they’ve missed. And I’ll admit, it’s an easy option. For others, however, the fall workout is where it’s at.
There are plenty of fall fitness options, as well. Outdoor activities like hiking, apple picking, or a trip to the pumpkin patch are all easy to include in a fall workout routine.
Further, community centers and groups have a variety of seasonal programs and classes available to anybody who wants to get active leading into the holidays.
Having good habits as you enter the holidays and winter season can be a major health boon.
Starting a fitness routine in the fall can leave you feeling energized and healthy throughout the holidays, lower the chance of weight gain, and ultimately allows you to avoid the challenge—and usual disappointment—of the “New Year, New You!” weight loss craze come January.
Fall Fitness Tips and Strategies
Starting a fitness routine in the fall isn’t that different from any other time of year, with the exception of a few factors. The days are shorter than summer, the temperatures are bit cooler, and there may be an increased risk of slipping if you’re outdoors.
But we’ll talk about how to handle those factors in a moment. First, let’s explore some general fitness tips to apply any time of year.
- Ease into it: People often go hard from the get-go, forgetting that you can’t get all the benefits in one day. Taking an incremental approach helps your body adjust to the new demands and substantially reduces the risk of injury. It also helps with adherence. Therefore, don’t push too hard out of the gate and ease into your routine. Remember it’s a long-term play, not quick hit.
- Find things you enjoy: If you’re not motivated to get out and be active because you don’t like the exercise you’re doing, you’re doing the wrong things. Including activities that provide satisfaction will help ensure you stay energized and consistent in your efforts. Sprinkle in a variety of activities to enhance enjoyment.
- Switch it up: Try to do something active every day. Switching between cardio/aerobic days and strength-focused days is the best strategy to maximize any fitness routine.
Now, let’s get into some seasonal tips:
1. Start Your Day Off Right
A crisp fall morning might be the best time to get out and enjoy a walk. There is evidence to suggest a 20- to 30-minute walk in the morning can boost energy, reduce anxiety, lower stress, and improve mood, compared to an indoor walk or sedentary morning.
Further, there is research showing that older adults who start their days with a walk show better cognitive function than those who start their day with an extended sit.
2. Dress for the Occasion
Fall presents a few challenges compared to summer when it comes to activity.
The first is the cooler temperatures. Whether you’re exercising outdoors or indoors, a warm-up is necessary. Heading into a workout with cold, tight muscles can substantially boost the chance of injury.
If exercising outside, dress warmly with removable layers. As you get going, you may work up a sweat and want to relieve yourself for outer layers like sweatshirts, shell coats or hats. Start slowly and increase the pace once you’re warmed up.
If you’re working out indoors yet came in from the cold, take five minutes to warm up on a treadmill.
Lastly, the fall can get a little slippery. Whether you’re walking on the sidewalk or hiking on a trail, wear footwear with good traction. Walking sneakers for the concrete or hiking boots for trails can go a long way in preventing falls or twisted ankles, as leaves and morning dew can present hazards.
3. Schedule Workouts Thoughtfully
With shorter days, timing becomes more of an issue in the fall. Poor visibility at night, along with leaves on the ground, can make outdoor exercise rather risky after dark.
Going for a walk early in the day is a great way to get around this problem. If that doesn’t work for you, be sure to wear reflective clothing so you’re visible to drivers.
Also, pay extra attention to where you step.
4. Take Advantage of the Weather
The fall season provides an excellent opportunity for outdoor activities. It can be a real treat for the senses, given the crisp, refreshing air; colorful scenery; crunching leaves underfoot; and the tastes of seasonal produce like apples and butternut squash.
Activities like apple picking, pumpkin carving, and nature walks are all unique options this time of year. Hey, even raking the leaves is valuable activity! Also, if you live near water you can take advantage of the scenery in a kayak or canoe—both offer great full-body workouts.
If weather is a deterrent, community centers and athletic facilities offer a number of classes or groups to encourage fitness and wellness. Dancing, swimming, and more will all be available.
When the snow hits, you can continue hitting your favorite hiking trails or lakes, just strap some snowshoes on your feet!
5. Watch TV Actively
Yes, fall can be a great time for television. New shows debut, your favorite ones are back, and sports are in full swing. But that doesn’t mean you’ve got to park yourself on the sofa for hours at a time.
While watching, you could walk on a treadmill (in your living room or at the gym). You could do standing lunges, dips, squats, or lift weights, all in front of the television, too.
Commercials also provide a great opportunity for a couple of trips up and down the stairs (if you’ve got them) or sets of push-ups or sit-ups. Over the course of an hour-long television program, you’ve probably got about 15 to 20 minutes of solid workout time.
6. Integrate Exercise into Your Daily Life
Maybe you’ve got a grandkid who plays basketball, football, or soccer. Start attending practices and games, but instead of sitting sedentary, walk laps around the gym or field.
This is especially easy during practice, and it’s a much better use of time than chatting with other parents.
Other ways to help boost activity include scheduling walking meetups. Instead of getting together for a tea or coffee with a friend indoors, pour the beverages into a travel cup and walk and talk.
Little adjustments like these can substantially boost your overall activity and ingratiate it to your lifestyle.
Creative Ways to Boost Fall Fitness
As mentioned earlier, it’s best to follow a routine that targets both your cardiovascular system and muscle strength.
Focusing on both helps to promote heart health, bone health, mental health, and strength and durability, while reducing the risk of a host of chronic illnesses and promoting a higher quality of life.
When it comes to how to do it, the choice is really yours.
Some may want to do full-body workouts that feature cardio and strength. These would include activities like canoeing or kayaking, raking, or swimming.
Performing these activities three to four times a week, with walks on other days, would suffice.
Those who want to focus on activities like dancing, walking, cycling, hiking, and other aerobic activities should also try to include exercise that targets your muscles.
Going to the gym, or working out at home, three times per week to target all your muscles is recommended.
Here are a few creative workouts to start your fall off right:
If you’re settling in for two hours—the game is on or you’re taking in an evening with Chicago’s emergency responders—make use of those dreaded commercial breaks.
At the first break, get up and head up and down the stairs as many times as you can. (If you don’t have stairs, walk around your home.)
At the next commercial break, do push-ups. Shoot for 10, then take a 30-second break before doing more. Repeat until your program resumes.
At the third break, do standing lunges, following the same pattern as push-ups.
The next break, do sit-ups.
For the fifth, pick an item/weight up off the floor, using the same rep/rest scheme as the push-ups and lunges.
After that, keep repeating the cycle.
After two shows, you’ll have accomplished roughly 40 minutes of exercise and undergone a full-body workout.
Do this routine three times per week.
My dad is 75 years old, but he refuses to let my brother and I come by to help him with his yard work. Why? Because it’s a great workout. The reality is that he calls us to see if there is anything he can do at our homes!
If you have a family, ask if you can help rake and bag their leaves, put away patio/deck furniture, or do any of the other seasonal activities that offer full-body workouts. Just be sure not to overexert yourself.
Getting out into the neighborhood and raking up neighbors’ leaves a couple of times a week can be just what you need to stay fit, plus you will get a chance to catch up with the families on your street.
If you’ve got a pumpkin patch nearby in need of seasonal workers, that could be an awesome way to get more exercise.
Lifting pumpkins will strengthen your core and posterior chain (back and hamstrings) and lead to some decent muscle gains. You’ll be burning tons of energy, too.
If the idea of doing it all day is not appealing, you can at least head out there a few times a week and pretend you’re looking for pumpkins!
Use Fall to Get Fit and Prepare for the Holidays
A new season provides a terrific opportunity to explore fitness and activity. Aside from offering seasonal sights, sensations, and experiences, it can help instill good habits that make the holidays a little easier.
Starting a fall workout routine can help you stay healthy, less anxious, and slimmer throughout the holidays and into the new year.
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