Top (Healthy) Reasons to Love Fall   

Autumn is a great time to focus on your physical and mental health.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

Apple picking, corn mazes, cooler weather, piles of colorful leaves—fall is a magical time of year. As this new season begins, you might feel inspired to adopt healthy habits like exercising and eating right. Fortunately, autumn eats and activities may actually be good for your physical and mental health. Here are three ways you can enjoy autumn while also boosting your health.

Cool, crisp weather is great for outdoor exercise
Tired of heading outside for a run only to cut it short because of the heat? The cooler temperatures of autumn make for more enjoyable outdoor workouts. Whether you’re a runner, a yogi or you’re obsessed with high-intensity training, grab your gear and head outside.

In addition to the benefits of your specific workout, enjoying your fitness outdoors—aka “green exercise”—can also:

  • Improve your mood
  • Lower your risk of depression
  • Boost your self-esteem

In one study, people who exercised next to water—lakes, streams or oceans—saw an even larger effect. One theory is that connecting with nature can help us appreciate our bodies and what they do, boosting self-confidence as a result.

Not ready to commit to outdoor workouts? No problem. You can still reap the mental health benefits (and burn some calories) by taking a 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood or working in the garden.

Exercising outdoors is inexpensive and accessible. Typical outdoor workouts include:

  • Bike riding
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Sports like basketball, soccer, tennis or football

You can also bring almost any type of workout to your deck, yard or local park. If you do decide to do a custom workout routine outside, make sure you have a steady and safe surface to perform the moves.

Fall colors can actually boost your mood
Rich reds, vibrant oranges, warm yellows—the brilliant colors of fall foliage may do more than delight your senses. The colors you notice when the leaves begin to change may have some mental health benefits, too.

The color yellow is often thought to convey energy, enthusiasm, fun, cheerfulness and a positive emotional state. Red may help improve your attention span and boost your confidence. And it’s possible that fall foliage and cool temps may bring about happy memories.

Take time to step outside and enjoy the beauty that autumn has to offer. Go for a walk, take a drive to see the leaves change or simply visit your local park for some outdoor time. You could also fill your home with fresh fall flowers—such as Hypericums, dahlias and Leucadendrons—or decorate with the warm, cozy hues of fall.

In-season fruits and veggies are in abundance
Your favorite in-season summer produce picks like strawberries and cucumbers may be hard to come by in October (or if they’re available, they won’t be the best quality), but it’s only to make way for fresh, nutrient-packed fall fruits and veggies. Savor the flavors of fall and add these seasonal fruits and veggies to your grocery list:

  • Pumpkin: Loaded with fiber, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C, eating pumpkin can help regulate digestion, boost your immune system and improve your eye health.
  • Sweet potatoes: A low glycemic index can help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
  • Apples: Packed with fiber and vitamin C, this fruit can help regulate blood sugar levels and bowel health, and keep you feeling fuller, longer.
  • Butternut squash: Filled with fiber, vitamin A, folate and antioxidants, this yummy fruit may help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease.

If you’re not sure how to cook with squash or pumpkin, these easy recipes might help:

To make an easy fall side dish, mix cubed roasted butternut squash with sweet potatoes. Lightly brush the cubes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and ground sage, then bake in an oven set to 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

For a sweet fall breakfast, add a spoonful or two of canned pumpkin to your oatmeal each morning, then top with thinly sliced apples.

Still not inspired by a fall harvest? Plan a trip to your local farmer’s market. Vendors can share tips on how to select and prepare your autumn produce.

You can focus on your health again
While summer is great for being active outdoors, the irregular rhythms of the season sometimes throw off your usual health routine. (Think spontaneous road trips and weekend BBQs that wend their way into the wee hours.) But now that fall is here, with its built-in work and school schedules, you can get back on track with your healthy habits.

Use the fall season to reboot your routine—or start a new health habit:

  1. Wake up right when your alarm goes off: Open the blinds and get some exposure to sunlight—or better yet, a breath of cool fresh air with a quick walk or jog.
  2. Pack your lunch the night before: …and prep your breakfast, too. Setting the coffee pot, making overnight oats or laying out your ingredients can make mornings a breeze. And start tracking how well you’re eating, too. Use Sharecare, a free app for iOS and Android, to record the types of meals you’re eating.
  3. Schedule your workout: Put it on your calendar if you have to.
  4. Power down before bed: Turn off cell phones, tablets and TVs an hour before bed. Try drawing a warm, relaxing bath with Epsom salt to relieve tired muscles, and try reading a book, rather than scrolling through Instagram.
  5. Start tracking your sleep: By doing so, you’ll notice patterns and detect potential sleep issues you’ll want to address. Get started by trying the Sharecare app—you can manually input how long you sleep each night or allow the app to automatically track your sleep instead.

Fall is the perfect time to take advantage of change and to make specific tweaks that can help you take control of your health. Whether it’s settling into new routines or simply taking time to focus on yourself, now’s the time to take advantage of all that fall has to offer.

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