How to stay healthy this autumn
1. Get moving outside
“Don’t let cooler days keep you from moving,” says exercise physiologist Christine Armarego. “The extreme conditions of summer and winter can be tough if you’re not properly prepared, but in autumn the temperatures are cool, crisp and inviting.”
Walking, jogging or cycling outside can be one of the best ways to soak up the natural beauty of this time of year, when leaves turn to autumnal shades of red, yellow and orange.
Consider setting up a weekly neighbourhood walking group as a fun way to stay active and keep you motivated through the cooler months. Heading outside is good for your sense of wellbeing too.
“People who exercise outdoors have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and higher levels of vitamin D than those who stay inside,” says Armarego.
Outdoor fitness gyms are another option and are popping up in towns and cities across Australia. The equipment is easy to use and comes with instructions on how you can get the most benefit. To learn more about free outdoor gym equipment near you go to https://aspaceto.com.au/
2. Head to the beach
“Beaches are less crowded at this time of year, making them great places to exercise,” says Armarego.
Studies show that walking or jogging on soft sand gives you a better workout than pounding the pavements, plus you can expend up to 50 per cent more kilojoules, depending on the softness of the sand.
If the water is still warm enough, try paddle-boarding or sea kayaking. But remember that beaches across Australia are not patrolled during winter months, so it’s always a good idea to take a friend along if you’re planning on getting in or on the water. Try these other ideas on staying active beach side:
• Challenge a group of friends to a game of beach volleyball.
• Pack a healthy picnic, grab cushions and a blanket and enjoy time with family and friends beside the sea.
3. Join a team sport
If you’re ready to ramp up your fitness levels, it’s time to consider getting into the game.
“Joining a sports team can improve your fitness, build muscle, help you stay accountable and spark new friendships,” says exercise physiologist Franci Cohen.
Winter sports such as netball and hockey can be played indoors or out, and pre-season training starts in autumn. Or if you’ve always wanted to check out your local soccer team, now’s the time. For a list of teams you could join in your area, visit your state government’s website.
4. Eat foods that boost your immunity
According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), focusing on whole foods, including those that contain vitamin C, zinc and protein, can help boost immunity when it comes to fighting off winter colds and flu.
“Making nutritious meals a priority in the colder months can reduce the likelihood and severity of colds,” says accredited practising dietitian and DAA spokesperson Simone Austin.
“Foods high in vitamin C include capsicum, broccoli, kiwifruit, strawberries and citrus, which are all readily available in autumn.
“Zinc is found in fish and seafood as well as lean beef and lamb, which are also a good source of protein. Baked beans and pumpkin seeds also provide zinc, so there are plenty of nutritious and tasty options to give your immune system a boost ahead of winter.”
Autumn is the season of warm, earthy colours – think deep greens, dark yellows and brilliant oranges. One rule of thumb is that the more colourful the food, the better it is for your immune system.
“Beef and bean stews, porridge topped with pumpkin seeds and chopped nuts, seafood soup and hearty stews served with dark leafy greens and delicious fruit crumbles are all tailored nutrition for staying healthy in the colder months,” says Austin.
5. Be active indoors
While it’s lovely to enjoy the great outdoors during autumn, as the days and nights grow colder many of us want to curl up and stay sedentary. “One thing you can do is move your activities inside,” says Armarego.
This autumn, get yourself organised so you are well prepared for the coming winter. Swim at your local indoor pool, join the gym or find a dance class near you.
“If you choose activities you actually enjoy you’re far more likely to stick to them for the long term,” she adds.
You could also consider renting home exercise equipment just for the cooler months. You don’t need to buy a big-ticket item like a treadmill or an exercise bike. Free weights, resistance bands, a skipping rope or fitness ball are all you need to stay active at home. Now is also a good time to enlist a workout buddy for motivation.
6. Boost your positivity
Even if it starts to look gloomy outside, that doesn't mean your mindset needs to be. Healthy habits such as doing regular activity and making sure you’re eating nutritious foods have been shown to help you keep a positive outlook and will get you through the winter chills.
An Australian study found that doing 60 minutes of activity per week – no matter how intense – can help protect against depression.
University of California research psychologist Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky agrees. “It’s important to keep your mood up at this time of year because it can help you avoid everything from putting on extra kilos to feeling lethargic,” she says.
7. Mix up your activities
Try something different, such as rock climbing, running or golf. Check out running calendar to find fun runs, stair climbs and group exercise events near you.
8. Enjoy the garden
Autumn is a great time to be in the garden. Apart from providing nutritious vegies, fruit and herbs for your table, gardening will lift your spirits and is an opportunity to move more.
A study conducted in Dubbo, NSW, found that gardening could also lower your risk of dementia by 36 per cent.
Researchers tracked more than 2800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years, and found that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.
Autumn is the perfect time to practise being present, so you’re feeling calm, centred and balanced ahead of the bleaker winter months. It helps you focus on what you are doing and avoid getting swept away by regrets about the past or worries about the future. Do this in the mornings, afternoons and evenings through autumn and you’ll be better able to cope, no matter what the season throws at you.
• In the morning:
Before rising, sit up comfortably in bed, place your hands in your lap and close your eyes. Take 10 deep breaths in and out. Focus only on your breathing. If you find yourself in thought, just let the thoughts go and come back to the breath again.
• At lunchtime:
Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor and quiet your mind. With your eyes open, notice nine things in your surroundings. Just notice them without any judgement about them. This allows you to stay productive in the afternoon ahead.
• Before bed:
Keep a journal beside your bed and before you go to sleep, write down seven things you are grateful for. This helps you acknowledge the positive things in your life, no matter how bleak the weather.