5 Healthy Ways to Embrace Fall

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It can be easy to complain about the dark mornings, chilly temperatures and gloomy weather that fall brings. It's also the start of the holiday season, which can be cheerful (presents, family and fun!) or dreadful (food, stress and calories!), depending on your viewpoint. But if you look on the bright side, this season of changes has a lot to offer when it comes to your health and fitness.
In fact, according to SparkPeople.com polls with more than 5,000 responses each, fall is a clear winner for exercising outdoors (46%) and offering the best activity options (47%) of all the seasons.
So how can you avoid the pitfalls and let this season work in your favor—so that you get fitter and healthier and continue reaching your goals?
Embrace Fall to Enhance Your Health
  1. Take Comfort in Your Foods
    34% of you vote soups and stews as your favorite fall food (get our best fall soup recipes!). Fall is a great time to turn to comforting foods that warm you up on a chilly night. There's nothing wrong with that—when you make sure the foods you choose are good for your body and your waistline. Forget the high fat ice cream, hot cocoa and baked goods. These fall comfort foods will satisfy your cravings without hurting your weight loss goals.
  2. Get Outside!
    Fall is by far my favorite season to run, walk and hike with my dog (or friends), and I'm not alone. SparkPeople members vote hiking as their #1 favorite fall activity. There are so many options for enjoying the season and taking in the sights while still burning calories. For example, you could view all that raking as a hassle, or as a great way to get outside and enjoy the colors, sights and smells of the season while burning calories. Here are more ways to burn fat with fun fall activities.
  3. Get Your Sleep Back on Schedule
    I'll admit that as much as I love sleeping and have a tendency to oversleep (a vice, as too much sleep is just as bad for your health as too little) along with problems falling asleep each night. It's a vicious cycle. But thanks to the recent time change, I've actually been feeling more rested thanks to my extra hour of sleep—and been able to wake up earlier each morning without feeling tired for once! I'm doing my best to stick with this improved sleep schedule even on the weekends. In truth, the darker nights definitely make me tired sooner and actually do help me get to bed earlier than I would normally. Take advantage of this to get your circadian rhythm back on track. And when you wake up feeling rested, you're that much more likely to squeeze in that morning workout you promised yourself. Here are more tips to help your body adjust to the end of daylight saving time.  
  4. Start Your Day on a Healthy Note
    Although spring and summer offer brighter mornings, the saying "early to bed, early to rise" is true even in the darker months. I tend to have more energy and motivation in the morning, especially after a restful night's sleep. If you're like me, take advantage of it! It can be tough to leave the house in the dark, return home in the dark, and then make yourself hit the gym or cook dinner. That's why it pays off to start your day on a healthy note: with breakfast, a little exercise, even a little "Spark" time. Pack your lunch in the morning or get dinner ready to go in your slow cooker. This way, when you come home and it's already dark out, you'll have at least made some smart, healthy decisions to start your day.
  5. Eat Your Vitamins
    Hippocrates' famous wisdom tells us to "Let thy food be thy medicine and they medicine be thy food." We know that what we eat influences our health maybe more than any other habit in our lives. And when you eat seasonally, you're taking in some of the most essential nutrients you need. Fall produce (think pumpkin, winter squash, apples and garlic) are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy and your immune system in tip-top shape. There are so many healthy and delicious ways to enjoy them, too, weather straight-up or as additions to your favorite recipes. Be creative and eat those vitamins to stay healthy all season long.
Whether you view the end of summer as a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of perspective. Personally, I choose to look on the bright side and tweak my own food and fitness habits so I can benefit from the best that fall has to offer. I'll be making my pumpkin & apple waffles, hiking with my four-legged daughter (Ginger loves fall, too), going to bed earlier, and taking it one day at a time so that I stay on track now and well into the holiday season.
How about you? What is your favorite way to embrace fall food or fitness?

For more fall fitness tips and recipes, check out SparkPeople's "Fit & Healthy Fall" Pinterest board.

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