OK, it's official. Summer's over, and fall is here. Many react to this season – the cooler temperatures, shorter days, and the prospect of an approaching winter – by neglecting the routines that helped them remain healthier and happier during the summer months. Here are a few tips – gleaned from doctors, psychologists, health experts, and fitness experts around the word – to help you avoid the fall "blahs" and take advantage of this wonderful season.
Don't resent the weather, take advantage of it. While it may no longer be beach weather, fall is a wonderful time to enjoy walking, hiking in the woods (and thus enjoying the beauty of the changing leaves), bicycling, and other outdoor activities. Even raking leaves is great exercise, if you look at it that way, and burns 300 calories per hour.
Dress for the season. This doesn't just mean wearing darker, more fall-appropriate colors, but dressing in layers. This will enable you to adjust what you're wearing to different conditions, as you're moving from being inside a cozy house or store one minute to being outside the next. Scarves are good, because not only do they make great fashion accessories, they will keep your neck warm in the wind and help to prevent colds.
Learn something new. Merlyn's advice in T. H. White's classic "The Once and Future King" about learning being the best antidote to sadness is especially appropriate in the fall. In most schools, adult education programs, YMCAs, and community centers, new classes are starting every day, providing you with endless opportunities to expand your horizons. Learn a second language (or a third, if you already know two), learn to tap dance or do the tango, take up yoga or tai chi, or take a cooking course. Not only will you be learning a useful new skill and meeting new friends, you'll be forging new neural pathways in your brain, exercising it, and thus helping to stave off the effects of aging.
Drink more water. Interestingly enough, many people are more prone to dehydration during the fall and winter than in the heat of summer, because central heating dries the air and causes us to lose more moisture in our daily activities. Drinking more water also helps to keep your skin hydrated, which can help when dealing with higher winds and lower temperatures. Drinking green tea can also help, because it contains antioxidants that boost the body's immune system.
Enjoy the bounty of healthy fall foods. There are so many great autumn harvest foods that we hardly know where to begin, but here's a list of a few of them:
• Apples. High in calcium and Vitamin C, apples also contain the antioxidant quercetin and polyphenols that fight disease. Plus, they're delicious, either raw or cooked.
• Pumpkin. Good in pies, soups, or just on its own, pumpkin is full of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and potassium.
• Kale. A cup of this tasty vegetable contains more Vitamin K than any other leafy green, and is also high in beta-carotene.
• Chestnuts. These nuts are high in Vitamin B6 and fiber, which help to keep your skin looking younger and boost the immune system.
• Butternut squash. A perennial fall favorite, this versatile vegetable can be roasted, used in soups, and served many different ways, and is high in Vitamin C and beta carotene.
• Brussels sprouts. Steamed, roasted, or pan-fried, these crunchy treats contain high amounts of Vitamins C and K and calcium.
• Pomegranates. Not just sweet and tasty, these fruits are loaded with antioxidants and tannins, both of which fight "bad" cholesterol and keep your heart healthy.