Autumn is in full swing. The clocks have changed, summer is a distant memory, and the shops are gearing up for Christmas. Now the mornings are cloaked in a blanket of darkness and the evenings shrouded in a chill, the last thing you probably feel like doing is exercising.
But this time of year is exactly the right time to hit the gym.
Experts agree that going to a class or even a brisk walk can boost your mood, keep those winter calories at bay and ward off germs.
We got the lowdown on why it’s time to find those trainers…
It’s the ‘routine’ time of year
“Life gets in the way in the summer,” says Luke Worthington, head trainer at Third Space. “Autumn is a better time to exercise because you’re here (in the country), you’re back at work, so there’s routine.”
It also fills in dead social time, he adds. Barbecue season is over, and Christmas party season is yet to begin. Even if you didn’t do sober October, it’s likely you’re drinking a little less after a summer of Prosecco and Aperol Spritz. So, use those evenings you’re not in the back garden with something boozy to get fitter again.
It’s good for immune system
This time of year is ‘cough and cold’ season – but exercise can help ward off the sniffles, says Israel Rivera, head of group exercise at Virgin Active. Even doing 20 minutes’ exercise is a bonus, he says.
“Exercise increases the strength of our immune system,” says Rivera. “Even if it’s just for a short period of time. But that means consistency is important. I can’t stress enough how much consistency and accountability matter when you’re working so hard on your fitness goals.
“It can be as simple as a brisk walk – just breathing in oxygen and allowing it to circulate gives you a better sense of wellbeing,” he adds. “The soulful part is just allowing yourself to take a deep breath.”
It’s investing in your spring body
Those shorts you wore all summer might seem like a distant memory, but giving up on the exercise now will mean they’re a bit snug come next May. “There’s no doubt that as human beings, the second we start to see less sun and the seasons change, the immediate effect we feel is isolated,” says Rivera, who notes that we then get into the “hibernating habit”.
“We develop what I call a ‘snuggle up mentality’, and head for the couch along with the comfort food,” he adds. “But in order to avoid the winter coat and then struggling in spring to get into the swimwear, we need to prioritise our workouts.”
It’s about exercising your brain too
“What’s underrated at this time is the value and impact on our mental health and overall sense of wellbeing,” adds Rivera. “In terms of the mind and mental health, autumn is the time when people struggle – whether they have a diagnosed mental health challenge, or even mild or major depression, the winter blues can really be crippling. Daily workouts help the body and the brain release endorphins and dopamine. That helps you challenge the daily grind, reduce anxiety and boost your overall sense of wellbeing.”
It’s a good time to do ‘body homework’
“Making an appointment and sticking to it is self-care,” says Worthington. “It’s just one of the things you’re doing to take care of yourself. And it’s also a great time to do some ‘body homework’.”
That is, looking after the core muscles and health, rather than just how flat your stomach is. “I try and shift the focus in the winter, it’s a good time to try and take care of all the structural stuff,” Worthington adds.
It’ll help you eat more healthily
Working out means you can hit the pastry, right? Well, actually, with all the lovely seasonal veg around right now, you’ll be fuelling your mind and body in the best way – and getting your vitamins.
“We’re reaching for comfort food, for that piping hot pie or Sunday roast,” says Rivera. “The average person can gain up to 4kg over the winter months. Really making exercise a priority is important – we do have to exercise ‘mindful eating’, but it’s about the quality of the calories in, versus the quality of the calories out.”
Plus, exercise means more fluid intake as you’ll be craving water, which is also a great way to keep the body stronger and healthier, inside and out.