This summer wasn’t just hot—by some measures, 2022’s sunniest months were the most scorching in history. But if you’ve been sweating through every shirt you own, take heart: Fall is finally here, and with it, crunching leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and—thankfully—cooler temperatures.
Take advantage of the reprieve from mind-melting heat—use this fall to get fit! With the kids back in school and the return to routine—getting up for the bus, packing lunches, and adhering to scheduled bedtimes—it’s the perfect time to establish and stick to your own healthy, get-moving routines. Follow these 7 tips to have your fittest fall ever.
1. Start the day with a crisp, morning walk.
Fall’s falling temps are the perfect reason to get outside. Taking a short morning walk of just 10 or 15 minutes won’t just burn calories and energize you for the day, though. It could also help control your appetite. In a study, scientists found that people who exercise have lower levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry. So taking a brisk walk at breakfast time could help you stave off cravings all day.
2. But before you walk, warm up your joints.
Being warmed up can result in fewer injuries and better workout performance—and make you better equipped to handle a potential slip on some leaves! Don’t think “stretching,” though: Warming up should literally warm your body and your joints up. Try this quick warmup before your walk. Try to go from one move to the next without resting, feeling your heart rate warming up. Do two total rounds of each move:
Warmup Move 1 – March in place:
Stand proud and tall! Bring your knees high! Do 10 marching steps with each leg.
Warmup Move 2 – Arm circles:
Start with small circles, and work your way up to big ones. Go forwards, then backwards. Bonus points if you can do your arm circles while marching in place.
Warmup Move 3 – Ankle circles:
Stand on one foot and circle your ankle five times in each direction. Then switch legs.
Warmup Move 4 – Give yourself some big hugs:
Spread your arms wide, then bring them around to wrap around your torso, giving yourself a big hug. Do 6-8 big hugs. Again, bonus points if you can march and hug at the same time.
3. Add some strength work to your walk.
You’re already exercising, so double up: When you’re out walking, pick a spot where there’s a bench and take a break from your walk for this simple, three-move strength session. Do each exercise for the prescribed number of repetitions, then move to the next exercise. Aim for 3-4 rounds of all the moves.
Exercise 1 – Front-foot elevated spilt squat:
Stand in front of the bench, and place your right foot up on the seat. Your left leg should be flat on the ground, and slightly behind you. Now flex both knees simultaneously to descend until your front knee forms a 90-degree angle. Press through your front foot to return to the starting position. Do 3-5 split squats this way, then switch legs and repeat.
Exercise 2 – Elevated pushup:
Place your hands on the seat of the bench and assume the classic push-up position: Arms perpendicular to your torso, your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Maintaining this rigid body line, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the bench seat. To protect your shoulders from pain and injury, keep your elbows relatively tight to your sides rather than flaring them out at a 90-degree angle. Press back to start. Try for sets of five push-ups. Too hard? Use the back of the bench instead of the seat.
Exercise 3 – Explosive calf raise:
“Explosive” means “fast and powerful.” Hold onto the back of the bench for support and stand tall. Now, as quickly as you can, press through the balls of your feet to raise your heels and come up on your toes. Hold for a second, then slowly return to the ground. Repeat 6 times.
4. Don’t put away the sunscreen.
Summer’s over, but the sun is still there. And even though you might not get a sunburn, you can still be exposed to UVA and UVB rays that can cause skin damage and lead to skin cancer. If you’re headed out to enjoy the outdoors this fall, use the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “UV Index Search” for your zip code before you lace up your shoes. If the index in your area is three or higher, put on some sunscreen before you start your outdoor workout.
5. Remember to stay hydrated!
Just because it’s not sweltering doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. Remembering to stay hydrated during autumn workouts is crucial, since you’re not as inclined to drink as you are when the sun’s beating down. If you start to become dehydrated during a long walk, run, or bike ride, you can suffer from cramps, increase your risk of injury, or just perceive the workout as harder than it is—which is unpleasant, and might make you more likely to quit.
How much should you drink, and how often? According to recommendations from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), you should aim to drink 17-20 ounces 2-3 hours before your workout, then 8 ounces of water 20-30 minutes before you exercise. During your exercise, drink 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes. 30 minutes post-workout, drink another 8 ounces, then drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.
6. Wear reflective clothing.
The days are getting shorter, meaning you could start or finish a longer walk or run when it’s tougher for you and drivers to see. Wear some light-colored, reflective clothing or shoes, and consider investing in a headlamp or small flashlight so you can be visible and finish your workout safely.
7. Combine an old habit with a new one.
As the kids head back to school, they establish new habits with their class schedules, new teachers, and new after-school activities. You can do the same: Use the “back to school” mindset to create and cement new routines of your own, so you won’t need willpower to get out and get moving—you’ll have made it a habit.
One great way to do this is called “habit stacking,” a practice where you pair a new habit that you want to establish right alongside one you’re already doing. So if you already brush your teeth every morning, and you want to do more leg-strengthening exercises each day, stack them together: After you brush your teeth, do 10 bodyweight squats. Or if you already do the laundry twice per week, add some leg exercise into that routine: Each time you put a new load in the washer, do five lunges on each leg.
*Speak to your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.