Fitness professionals know that keeping active is the best way to maintain fitness as well as overall health. But as the seasons change, the things we can do to keep active have to change as well. With fall almost here, many of us want to know: How can we get the most out of fall activities?
By doing them consistently as a part of your overall physical fitness goals, according to John Bobalik, exercise physiologist at Purdue Northwest Fitness Centers. “They can get the most out of any fall activity, whether it be gardening, walking or shopping, by doing it consistently.”
Thankfully, there are many ways to get the benefits of exercise while enjoying the customs of autumn.
“Apple picking allows you to work on good posture as well as shoulder mobility and stability,” says Ken Croner, personal trainer at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe. And “pumpkin carving is a great way to work on grip and forearm strength.”
Planting a fall garden is a fun activity, and there is increasing evidence that it can provide substantial health benefits. In a research article “Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis”, published in the March 2017 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Preventive Medicine Reports, science researchers Masashi Sogaa, Kevin J. Gaston and Yuichi Yamaura found “robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health.” The authors further concluded that “a regular dose of gardening can improve public health.”
Even routine fall chores can provide fitness benefits. Take raking leaves. Bobalik and Croner agreed that you can get great fitness benefits from tackling that yard full of leaves.
“There are many benefits to raking leaves,” Croner says, including “shoulder stability and mobility, forearm and grip strength and an opportunity to work on posture and trunk stabilization.” But Croner advises raking an equal amount of time with “right hand over left and the left over the right” to give both sides of your body the same amount of work. He considers this extremely important.
Bobalik, who was the director of Purdue Northwest Fitness Centers until his retirement in 2017, now teaches classes and does training. He suggests following physical fitness activity guidelines published by associations such as the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association for best benefits from routine fall activities. “All those organizations will tell you the same thing: You need 150 minutes of exercise a week. That’s basically what you need to improve your level of fitness.”
Activities such as raking leaves are not without risks, particularly for the elderly or those with heart conditions. So pay attention to what your body is telling you. Stop activity if anything feels off or painful. Bobalik also suggests that those with medical conditions consult with their physician before undertaking these activities or any new exercise program.
Croner also advises those keeping active into the colder months to focus on keeping hydrated. “It is easy to forget about drinking fluids when the temperature cools down and your thirst is not at the same level as when there's humidity" and heat, Croner says.
Biometric fitness trackers can supply feedback on what you are accomplishing during your fall activities, but they aren't necessary. “A tracking device can be beneficial if the individual wants to measure the duration of their workout and their intensity level,” Croner says, “However; it is not necessary to use one in order to have a productive training session.”
And for those who like to keep it simple, taking a walk through the fall foliage can be an excellent way to keep active. It's one of Croner’s favorite fall activities. “The fall is a wonderful time to get outside,” he says.