The dog days of summer are beginning to wind down, the sun has started to set earlier, and the air is getting a little crisp. Gone are the days of intense heat and humidity — to be replaced by cool temperatures and falling leaves. As the foliage makes its annual change from green to red, orange, and yellow, now is a good time to start taking inventory of your autumn attire, equipment, and decorations. Fall is right around the corner, so make sure you’re ready to kick off the harvest season on the right foot!
Although it is not out of the ordinary to prime your home for the upcoming season, many of us lose sight of taking the appropriate measures when it comes to our own health and wellbeing. Sure – you’ve decked out your home with the perfect fall décor, complete with pumpkin-spiced coffee, apple-scented candles, and the classic scarecrow on the front lawn. However, you do need to prepare your body for the fall as well — and there are multiple activities, fruits and vegetables, and specific nutrients that will support your health all season long.
So before you pick up the rake, do the heavy lifting at your local pumpkin farm, or break the huddle in a friendly game of backyard football, be sure to take care of yourself — and your health — with these “Fall-tastic” physical activities and foods!
The Best Exercises to Stay Active During Harvest Season
Fall brings about some of the best landscapes of the year. From the ever-changing foliage to the cool temperatures, the harvest season serves as the ideal time to support your health with physical activity. The cool, crisp weather provides a great opportunity to stay active, so be sure to take advantage before it gets too cold!
With this in mind, lets take a look at some of the top physical activities to support your health during the autumn months that run from the September through November.
The first physical activity to support your health during fall is biking. According to Harvard Medical School, a simple bike ride through the park presents multiple health benefits. Although many people enjoy riding across bumpy terrains at high speeds, you can still support your health without having to do anything extreme. This, of course, can be achieved with a standard bike and the proper clothing.
Harvard highlighted five important physical areas that bike riding supports, each of which are vital to daily health and wellness:
- Joint Health
- Aerobic functions such as cardiovascular health, brain function, and blood pressure
- Strength and muscle tone
- Everyday activities such as walking, standing, endurance, and balance
- Bone density
Biking not only supports multiple areas of your health, but it also presents an opportunity to take in some of the breathtaking views that fall has to offer. So get on your bike and ride!
Arguably among the easiest of physical activities, walking supports a variety of aspects of daily health. Despite its simplistic nature, walking promotes your balance and coordination, promotes strength in your bones and muscles, is great for weight management, and even helps maintain a good mood, according to Mayo Clinic.
The beautiful sights that the fall has to offer are an added bonus to your daily walk. A quick stroll through the park or around your neighborhood can support your cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure and mental stress, according to Harvard Medical School.
In short, walking presents multiple opportunities to support your physical and mental health while appreciating the beautiful sights nature has to offer during fall.
You’re probably wondering why yardwork is included in this list! After all, it is perhaps the least exciting activity one can think of, yet many of us are required to tend to our lawns, especially when the leaves start to accumulate.
Although yardwork — especially raking leaves — can feel quite tedious, it is a great way to stay active. According to an article on the website Livestrong, the calories burned while raking leaves is equivalent to walking at a leisurely 3.5 mph pace.
And although yardwork may not be the most exciting fall activity, it does serve two purposes in one. So next time you break out that rake, be sure to remember the health benefits that come with picking up the leaves!
Top In-Season Fruits & Vegetables
The harvest season brings about a bounty of delicious fruits and vegetables to select from your local grocery store, farm stand, restaurant, or even the garden in your backyard. While most fruits and vegetables — especially popular ones — are available virtually year-round, there are a handful that peak during the fall.
For example, pumpkins are a clear representative of autumn, but did you know that broccoli grows best during this time of year? In fact, the Agriculture Center at Purdue University considers fall an excellent time to grow certain vegetables including broccoli.
We’ll dive into the reasoning behind this and cover a variety of other fruits and vegetables as well!
Aside from pumpkin picking, the idea of apple picking is amongst the most recognizable activities to participate in during fall. Although apples are easy to obtain at virtually any point of the year, the multi-colored fruit is typically harvested in the northern hemisphere starting around late September.
While apple cider, candy apples, and other apple-based tasty treats steal most of the spotlight, they are typically filled with sugar and other additives. However, an ordinary apple is rich in nutrients and serves as a delicious and healthy snack. According to the School of Public Health at Harvard University, fresh, whole apples offer the most nutrients. Plus, apples contain a variety of vitamins including Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and Vitamin E.
Similar to apples, broccoli is present in grocery stores all year long. It is a highly nutritious vegetable and supports your health in multiple ways. For example, it is high in fiber and contains Vitamins A, B2, B6, K, and more, according to Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. The nutritionist linked broccoli to brain health, cardiovascular support, and antioxidant protection as well.
Although many of us are aware of the health benefits of consuming broccoli, there is a lesser known fact that links the harvest season with the green vegetable. The Spruce Eats states that broccoli is actually sweeter when harvested in the colder months of fall.
We all know that pumpkin picking is heavily associated with this time of year — especially in October. There is something special about bringing a ripe pumpkin home during the harvest season. Many people enjoy carving pumpkins and subsequently displaying the bright orange fruit in a proud manner.
While many consider pumpkins as decorations, others opt to reap the nutritional benefits the fruit has to offer. That’s right — pumpkins go beyond serving as a symbol of the harvest season, as the fruit is quite healthy when consumed.
Similar to other fruits and vegetables, pumpkin contains antioxidants, according to Healthline. Your body needs antioxidants to protect cells and tissue from free radicals. The continued buildup of free radicals generates oxidative stress in your cells and tissues. Pumpkins, like other nutrient-rich food sources, provide valuable antioxidant protection for the cells and tissue throughout your body.
Aside from antioxidants, pumpkin contains multiple nutrients that provide more ways to support your health. For example, cooked pumpkin (245g) contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium, and more.
Whether you’re selecting a pumpkin to carve and proudly display or finding a ripe pumpkin to eat, there is no wrong way to participate in one of the most popular activities of fall!
Key Nutrients to Support Your Health All Season Long
Sure — fruits and vegetables are a great way to support your health and wellbeing. And although these healthy goodies taste great and are served in a variety of dishes, the vitamins and minerals located inside them really are the most important reason to make them a part of your daily diet.
For instance, broccoli contains multiple vitamins and minerals that support health and wellness. One such nutrient is Magnesium – a vital ingredient involved in over 300 enzymatic and biological functions including support for the immune system, heartbeat regulation, and bone mineralization.
And while nutritional depth and balance is important every day, there are some areas of health that are impacted by the colder weather — and there are key nutrients that therefore become more important at this time of year.
Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen due to its support for stress and anxiety. Many use Ashwagandha for stress management, as this special botanical has clinically demonstrated to significantly reduce the effects of stress and manage cortisol levels.
Support for energy and endurance is another key benefit of Ashwagandha. This particular area of focus may provide much-needed support at any point in the year, including the fall.
The African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines states that Ashwagandha “improves energy and mitochondrial health.” Simply put, Ashwagandha supports energy levels and could provide the endurance you need to rake all those pesky leaves off the lawn, lift some hefty pumpkins into the wagon, and more!
Next up on the list is a nutrient involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions throughout the body. Although Magnesium supports multiple key areas of health, we’re going to focus on two areas relevant to some of the changes that come with fall.
One of the most apparent changes that fall brings is the changes in daylight. The lack of sunlight could impact your sleep cycle and mood — both of which are supported by Magnesium.
The Journal of Research in Medical Science published a 2012 study that concerned Magnesium and sleep troubles among the elderly. Magnesium bolstered its claim of supporting multiple areas vital for a good night sleep. Such areas included sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset latency, along with early morning awakening. Sleep cycles often go awry during seasonal changes, especially when the clock changes for the end of Daylight Savings Time.
In addition to supporting a good sleep cycle, Magnesium supports your mood as well. A 2018 review published in the journal Nutrients explained how Magnesium plays a key role in mood, including stress management, depression, and anxiety. So, if you find yourself feeling a bit stressed due to the shorter days with less sunlight, then perhaps turn to Magnesium for support.
The final weeks of fall consist of cold weather, shorter days, and, sometimes, reduced physical activity (when you’re not raking those leaves). That’s why it is important to support your energy levels during the coldest months of the year. Harvard Medical School emphasized the importance of Vitamin B12 because deficiency in this particular B-Vitamin could lead to fatigue.
The last nutrient to keep your eyes on during the harvest season is Vitamin D3. Vitamin D is created in the body when sunlight is absorbed through the skin. However, with fall comes shorter days and less sunshine — and less time spent outdoors — so alternative sources of Vitamin D3 become extremely important. The amount of sunshine you’ll be exposed to depends on where you live, but there’s a good chance your Vitamin D3 levels will begin to drop once the colder months arrive.
Research shows that Vitamin D3 supports immune function, cognitive function, and heart health. Immune health is especially important during the fall, as many Americans begin to brace for the colder weather. Proper immune system support could help your body fight off potential issues that stem from the cold weather.
For instance, the Journal of Investigative Medicine published a study that highlighted the importance of Vitamin D3 and immune health. On the other hand, the Mayo Clinic credited early research that explained how this essential vitamin can help improve cognitive function in adults over the age of 60.
Final Thoughts on Fall
It is easy to see why fall is one of the most exciting times of the year. School is back in session, pumpkin picking season is in full swing, and the environment is filled with crisp air and eye-catching landscapes.
Autumn is one of the best times of year to enjoy multiple activities with family and friends. It also serves as a prime opportunity to support your health all season long. So go rake some leaves, take a walk, pick some pumpkins, and supplement with the right nutrients from now through the rest of the year!