Guide to Fall Fitness and Health

1
Take Advantage of the Great Outdoors

Friends running trails together on winter morning
Fall Fitness. Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

The end of summer can seem like a sad time of year, but there's something about the cool, crisp air that can breathe some new life into your usual routine, especially when it comes to exercise.

Without the heat and humidity, outdoor workouts become much more comfortable and, after a busy summer, many of us are ready to get back to some sort of fitness routine. Fall weather, for many areas, offers some of the some of the best outdoor workouts all year long.

With kids back to school and holidays on the way, it may be a challenge to find time to exercise, especially when there's not as much daylight. Challenge, however, is at the very heart of staying fit, particularly with the long days of winter to come.

Getting started now can help you generate enough momentum to make it through the coming seasons without gaining weight. Try these great fall workouts to keep you fit.

Walking

Walking is just about the easiest way to exercise outside and a great way to get in some extra movement throughout the day. With cooler weather, you don't have to worry about sweating as much, so that may make it easier to be active all day long.

All you really need is a good pair of walking shoes and, perhaps, some fall weather gear to keep you warm, dry and protected. The key to making it enjoyable is to make it a daily thing:

  • Make it a habit to walk every day when you get home from work or at night after dinner.
  • Get up 10 minutes early and start your day with a brisk walk around the block. Use the time to think about what you want to accomplish and make your to-do list.
  • Plan fall activities that involve walking - Apple-picking, hunting for the perfect pumpkin or enjoying the beautiful colors with some Colorful Autumn Walking.
  • Get to work a few minutes early and take a few laps around the parking lot.

Hiking

Fall is a great time to go hiking--Cool weather, no bugs and, of course, magnificent views. Plus, hiking burns mega-calories as you increase your elevation and really work those legs.

Just a few reasons to add hiking to your routine:

  • It works multiple areas of fitness: Not only do you strengthen your muscles by climbing, you increase your cardio endurance as well. Walking or hiking up an incline gets your heart rate up, helping you burn calories and get fit.
  • It works multiple muscles: Hiking up and down even small inclines involves the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, core and the feet.
  • It gets you outside: If you're like most people, you spend a lot of time inside working. Hiking lets you get back to nature, clear your head and remember there's a world outside.
  • Hiking is great fall exercise: Not only is fall perfect for hiking, if you do it at the right time you can see amazing colors as the leaves change.

If you're in a flat area, look for small lakes, forest preserves or bike trails that allow you to get away from city life and enjoy the great outdoors. You can also check out The 10 Best Fall Hiking Trails.

If you do hike, you'll want to make sure you have the right equipment like hiking boots, and a way to stay hydrated.

Running

Rounding out the top outdoor fall activities is running.

Fall is probably the best time of year for running outdoors. It's not too hot, not too cold and watching the leaves change colors each time you head outside can make each workout a new adventure.

The real key to making fall running more comfortable is to dress in layers so you don't get too hot or too cold. Next? Making sure people can see you if you're running in the dark by wearing reflective running gear.

Check out these Effective 30-Minute Running Workouts to get started.

2
Get Back to the Gym

When the weather turns iffy, getting to the gym can help you stay on track with your workouts, especially if you get involved in a variety of activities.

To make the most out of your time at the gym, don't just do the same machines each time you go, but take advantage of all your gym has to offer:

  • Swimming: Swimming is such a great no impact activity and perfect for a complete, whole body workout.
  • Fitness classes: There's an energy you gather from other people when you workout in a class setting that you often don't get working out by yourself.
  • Hire a personal trainer: Fall is the perfect time to hire a pro and get your workouts on the right track from day one.
  • Workout with a buddy: If you feel intimidated or don't like working out by yourself, bribe a friend into working out with you. Knowing you have to show up will keep you motivated.
  • Keep it interesting: If you tend to gravitate to certain cardio machines, you can always change things up with interval training, which is a great way to burn calories and get in shape. You can even try more variety by mixing and matching different cardio machines, like in this Cardio Medley Workout.

Making Your Exercise Habit Stick

Making fitness stick is all about momentum (among other things), so if you're a beginner, start with about 3 days of exercise a week.

Do more if you can, but always start where you are rather than where you want to be. Ease your body and your mind into your new exercise schedule to minimize the risk of injury and add on as you get settled in. Here's a Sample Schedule to give you an idea of how to start:

Day 1: 20 minutes elliptical trainer, 20 minutes Total Body Strength and stretching
Day 2: 30-45 minutes Cardio Medley Workout
Day 3: 20 minutes elliptical training, 20 minutes Total Body Strength and stretching

3
Get Fit at Home

You don't have to go to a gym to get back into fitness. Working out at home can be just as effective, especially if you're just not crazy about the gym or you're on a budget.

Working out at home has a number of benefits including:

  • Convenience: You don't have to pack a bag or drive anywhere.
  • Flexibility: Having a home gym means you can do a workout any time.
  • Variety: While you may not have access to all the machines a gym has, you do have access to a variety of ways to exercise. Workout videos, workout apps on your smartphone or tablet or making your own workouts.
  • Easy on the wallet: All you really need for a great workout is your own body. As you progress from bodyweight exercises, you can buy inexpensive equipment such as resistance bands or dumbbells.

One thing to keep in mind is that working out at home does require some self-discipline. There's always something that needs to be done - Work, laundry, paying bills...it's easy to let that become an excuse to skip your workouts.

It's a good idea to create a habit you can stick with by working out at the same time every day and having lots of variety in your routine.

 

4
Try Something New

Summer often finds us being weekend warriors--going for long bike rides, playing sports and just generally getting out and being more active.

When fall hits, many of us head to the gym or bring our workouts indoors and that can quickly lead to boredom and burnout. Instead of going for the usual boring routine, this is a great time to try something completely different. 

Tai Chi

Also known as a moving meditation, Tai Chi is a slow, fluid activity that helps improve balance and strength while keeping you relaxed and connected to your body.

Tai Chi is an excellent activity to do on a chilly fall night to help you stay active. It can boost your mood, improve posture and even improve your heart health.

With the stress of going back to work and school, Tai Chi is the perfect stress-relieving workout. 

Yoga

Yoga is another kind of moving meditation that promotes balance, flexibility and soothing mind/body connections. Depending on the type you choose, yoga can be relaxing or it can be challenging, sometimes both.

You find a local yoga studio near you, try yoga app or videos, or even put together your own series of poses.

Barre Workouts

Any ballet-inspired workout that focuses on balance, coordination, and core strength by incorporating a mix of exercises that go through a full range of motion and those that isolate and hold challenging positions; popular examples include Physique 57, The Bar Method, Pure Barre, and Pop Physique.

CrossFit

If you really want to test your limits, try something like CrossFit. This type of workout involved high-intensity interval training, doing functional exercises with very heavy loads and measuring a variety of metrics during each workout so you can see your improvement.

The movements are considered functional, meaning they engage your whole body in a variety of ways. 

CrossFit is very high intensity and not necessarily for beginners, so you'll want to have some exercise experience and make sure the gym you choose has a good reputation.

Circuit Training

If you want something with a lot of variety but without the intensity of something like CrossFit, good old-fashioned circuit training is a great choice.

With circuit training, you choose 10 or more exercises, either cardio, strength training, or both and do each one, one after the other with no rests in between. With this kind of training, you work multiple areas of fitness, burn more calories and make your workouts more interesting.

Sample Cardio Circuit

Warm up with 5  minutes of light cardio and then do each exercise below, one after the other, without resting in between. Complete 1-3 circuits.

  • 1 min - Plyo Jacks
  • 1 min - Burpees
  • 1 min - Jog in Place
  • 1 min - High Knee Jogs
  • 1 min - Plyo Lunges
  • 1 min - Ski Abs
  • 1 min - Squat Kicks
  • 1 min - Jumping Jacks
  • 1 min - Squat Jumps
  • 1 min - Speed Skaters

5
Get Healthy with Fall Foods

Just because summer's over doesn't mean you need to avoid the produce section. In fact, fall brings a number of great choices to up the nutritional value of your meals while enjoying some of the great foods that are in season.

Pumpkin

Pumpkins make great jack-o-lanterns and they're also great for nutritious and yummy meals. Pumpkin provides carotenoids (which help fight heart disease and cancer), vitamins C, E and riboflavin, iron, fiber, and potassium, just to name a few. You could run out and start making pumpkin pies or you could try for healthier ideas by checking out these Healthy Pumpkin Recipes.

Apples

This time of year, apples are at their best and, because they're so versatile, you can find many ways to work them into your diet. Apples are low in calories, high in fiber, have no cholesterol and give your body important nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, calcium and folic acid. You can eat them alone or add them to any number of dishes for extra taste and nutrition. Try one of these Healthy Apple Recipes.

Pecans

You probably know that nuts are good for you (as long as you practice some portion control) and pecans are at the top of the list when it comes to healthy nuts. Pecans offer zinc, magnesium, potassium, thiamine, folic acid, and vitamin B6, just to name a few, and they're great sprinkled on salads or eaten alone as a snack. Learn more about how pecans can keep you healthy.

Learn more about the best produce to get during the fall season.

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