We all know that being active is good for maintaining a healthy body and weight. But as the nights draw in and the heating comes on, it’s easy to retreat indoors and let activity levels drop.
My advice? Don’t! Autumn is a wonderful time of year for adults and children to be outside, and the health benefits associated with many great activities on offer are immeasurable.
With that in mind, here are my top tips for safely making the most of muddy trails and fallen leaves in ways that will help all your family feel happier and help stave off activity slumps this chilly season.
Walk this way for family fun and fitness
Autumnal weather has something for everyone – from Nana’s desire to enjoy the countryside before it gets too gloomy, to the kids’ enthusiasm for jumping in puddles and running through leaves.
Huddling together for a bracing walk can do wonders for family spirit, or you can look for tracks or go on a ‘bear hunt’ in your local woods.
All these things will not only be fun, but they get your hearts pumping and fill your lungs with clean, fresh air – doing you all the world of good. As long as your heart beats faster and your temperature rises, your body will benefit.
Government guidelines say children should be getting at least an hour of activity a day, with adults getting at least 30 minutes. Getting out for an hour at the park or a couple of hours’ walk on a Sunday will all go towards ensuring you meet these guidelines and do your body the world of good.
Make the most of nature’s playground
The best thing about Autumn is that the outdoors suddenly has so much more to offer – a ready made obstacle course!
Fallen leaves, bare tree branches and plenty of mud to stomp in are all hugely attractive to kids and the perfect way to get them excited about being outdoors and forget that they are actually exercising!
As well as the usual running through leaves and splashing through puddles, you can create an assault course by piling up leaves to jump over or by using them as rounders markers – kids will love sliding into a pile of leaves at each base. Let your imagination run free.
You can even encourage the kids to help you rake and clear up the garden – it all counts. Just make sure that you are careful not to disturb any sleeping wildlife when running with abandon through the leaves!
Climbing trees (as long as it is safe to do so) is also a great activity in the winter months.
The Government recommends that kids should spend at least three hours a week doing exercises that help build their muscles and stamina, so adult-supervised swinging is perfect.
Take hold of the cold by being properly prepared
Making sure you have the right gear will ensure your activities don’t get ruined by the weather. You don’t have to splash out on technical gear but making sure you have the basics will go a long way to making you feel comfortable outdoors, which in turn will encourage you to stay out and stay active.
Autumn can be changeable, so keeping a waterproof handy and wearing layers which can easily been peeled off as you get warmer, is advisable.
Remember though, while you are likely to warm up doing any kind of activity you are also going to cool down rapidly once you stop, so you will need to make sure everyone has what they need to stay warm. Take particular care to make sure those especially susceptible to cold – children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – can wrap up quickly when needed.
If you haven’t exercised recently or fall into any of the at-risk groups as I just mentioned, it is advisable to avoid rigorous activity in frosty conditions completely as this can put a strain on the vascular system – your heart and blood vessels.
Be safe, be seen and be aware of what to do
The darker days should be no deterrent to great activities like cycling and walking – just remember to stay safe.
Ensure that you are all wearing bright or reflective clothing, it’s all too easy to miss anyone, especially a child, if they blend in with their dark surroundings.
Likewise, shoes without grip will not do anyone any favours in the mud or ice, so make sure everyone has the right footwear. If you are hill walking or scrambling, walking boots will help protect you from slipping and support your ankles.
If you, or anyone you are exercising with, becomes cold/wet or can’t feel their fingers/toes, get them to a warm, dry place – if they become disorientated or unresponsive, call the emergency services.
As the clocks go back, have fun going forward
So just because the clocks go back, don’t fall into the hibernation trap. There’s still plenty of good weather to be had and outdoor activities to enjoy. Simply check the forecast, plan your week, and make the most of this wonderful season before it’s gone for another year!