Stay Active Despite Colder Temps and Shorter Daylight Hours

With 60% of Americans being overweight, everything you can do to keep active helps.  The challenge this time of year is staying active despite colder temperatures and shortened daylight.  Our brains respond to this seasonal pattern with an ancient hibernation instinct, making us want to eat and sleep more.  Add Halloween (who doesn't dip into their kids' loot?) and the oncoming succession of holidays and you've got a recipe for obesity and depression.  Obesity, depression, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, are all linked.  


The following are my suggestions for keeping the weight down and your mood up with the oncoming change of seasons: 


1. As with every season, plan, prepare, prepack.  I have overnight bags filled with clothing I anticipate needing if I come across an opportunity for some fun in the sun; i.e. exercise.  In summer I carry an extra pair of shorts, leggings, bathing suit, and a few other things.  In winter it switches to an insulating layer of knit wool leggings and wool top, and nylon shell outerwear.  Some year-round basics and gear specific to the season make up a small bag that gets thrown in the back seat, along with related gear.  I pick sports that can easily fit in the back of a Prius.  I considered surfing at one point, but the size of the board makes it seem insurmountable.  I do plan to try kiteboarding. In the fall, as well as spring, I would suggest including rain gear and good foot gear for rain in your tote. 


2.  Find things that you can only do in that time of year.  There's no other season for color like fall, and this temperate climate (Ohio) provides one of the best trees for color.  Near here is the Maumee Bay State Park, where, in the spring and again in the fall is a world renowned bird migration viewing area.  They provide tours and lend out binoculars.  Just get out and walk the area and see if you can spot any eagles. Northwest Ohio has some wonderful metroparks with trails perfect for hiking.  There is an increase in the number of paved and limestone bike trails across the country.  If you ride, please be careful of what you run over.  Many reptiles and amphibians warm themselves on the pavement and are often killed when bikers ride over them, sometimes mistaking them for sticks.  Please keep an eye out for them.  Whether you like them or not, they are an important part of the ecosystem and have the right to be there.   I'll put in a plug here too, for Horse'N Around Stables in Waterloo State Park in Michigan.  They have a wonderful stable of rescued horses and they are excellent with beginner riders.  There is a weight limit, so if you have any questions, please look them up and ask them.   If you love horses but can't ride, there are a number of horse-drawn opportunities, especially in the fall.  


3. Build it in to your schedule.  I have taken to a) watching the forecast and putting it in to my weekly planner b) looking up skating schedules and activities and c)working these things into my daily schedule.  I also have a well-maintained bike which I sometimes keep at the office during the week.  If the weather's good and I have extra time I can do errands on bike, or go for a nice ride after work.   Days where there are no other opportunities and I really need to get some exercise (for me if I don't get in at least an hour a day of good exercise I just feel off.), I have a cheap gym membership.  I really should go to the gym more often, but it is just not fun for me.  But it does help me prevent injuries for the more risky but fun things I do, and gives me more strength and balance.  


4. Plan weekend or day-off activities that get you moving and outdoors.  Keep tabs on what is available in your area.  Look at sites like to find fun things with like-minded people in your area.  There are a number of festivals and farmer's markets this time of year, and it's still warm enough to even go to the beach or go kayaking.  Look at coffee shops for area event listings, or look up your region online for events.  


The little extra time you spend planning and preparing will pay off in terms of positive mood, satisfaction with body image, and better sense of well-being, which leads to better relaxation and quality time when you're not at work or otherwise "on task."   You'll sleep better when you get yourself good and tired, and your mind will have plenty of pleasant images to work on instead of those insomnia-inducing to-do lists.  Which in turn,  improved sleep patterns facilitate weight loss.  Head off the tendency to gain weight during this time of year and learn to enjoy the change of seasons.  


More to follow on learning to love winter.  You might want to start going to the gym now because I have some challenges for you!

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