The summer months afford us plenty of opportunities to stay active. There’s the incentive to feel better in a bathing suit, and it’s a lot easier to get a workout in when the entire world is your gym. You can go swimming, biking, running, you name it— the possibilities are endless.
But come fall, many of us trade in our running sneakers for cozy blankets and comfort foods. The good news is you don’t have to be so quick to throw in the (beach) towel. Many of autumn’s most popular activities are full of calorie-burning potential; you just have to know how to take advantage of it in your fitness routine.
Calories burned: about 300 per forty-five minutes*
• Walk the entire orchard, not just the flat parts.
• Eat an energizing meal beforehand, and bring water.
You can’t have fall without apples, and, for many, it doesn’t even feel like autumn until you’ve picked some apples of your own. There are approximately 7,500 apple growers in the US, meaning you’re probably not far from an orchard right now. Although apple picking might not sound like the most arduous activity, it can be quite a workout, depending on how you plan it.
Most orchards are not confined to a flat piece of land but are spread across multiple acres of hilly terrain, with the average orchard being about fifty acres in size. With plenty of room to walk and explore, a trip to the orchard has a lot of potential to give your cardiovascular system a boost. To start, consider carrying a bag for collecting apples instead of pulling them in a wagon. Carrying a little extra weight works your arm and leg muscles, as well as your abdominals, as you have to try and balance the weight moving up and down hills.
Take advantage of the entire orchard on your trip. Different apple varieties are often spread across the landscape, so
to collect a diverse bin of apples you’ll need to do some exploring—upping the cardio even more. The only downside to all that uphill walking is you might be tempted to grab a bag of apple cider donuts to snack on as you walk or after the excursion is over. To resist the temptation, be sure to eat a satisfying meal before you go, and bring a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated. You can also pack energy bites (see page 16) for an on-the-go snack.
Calories burned: about 550 per two hours
• Use a rake instead of a leaf blower.
• Chop up the leaves to use in flower beds.
Raking leaves is perhaps everyone’s least favorite fall activity, but it’s a necessary evil if you don’t want your lawn littered with areas of dead grass come spring. Much like other types of yardwork—such as pulling weeds, gardening, and tree trimming—raking leaves can add up to a lot of physical activity, especially if you’re at it for a long period of time.
Though it can make the experience easier, skip the leaf blower if you want a thorough workout, and rake your leaves by hand. The pulling motion has serious aerobic benefits if you’re raking for a long while. An alternate idea to raking would be to use your mower to mulch the leaves into finer pieces for your flower beds; however, if you use a power mower to do so, you probably won’t burn as many calories. Whichever you choose, be sure to protect your back by remembering to keep it as straight as possible; hunching over can create added stress on your spine.
Calories burned: about 400 per hour
• Plan a challenging but efficient hike tailored to your goals.
• Pack a backpack with water and healthy snacks.
There’s no question that hiking is one of the most popular ways to get some fresh air in the fall. Depending on where you live and what time of the season you go, you could hit the trails this time of year to catch a glimpse of the changing leaves. And, while the beautiful colors can certainly make physical activity more enjoyable, a leisurely stroll will not give you the same health benefits as a strenuous hike.
Before you even step outside, it’s a good idea to take a look at the trail map. What areas are more flat, and what spots have
the potential to give you a really good sweat session? Come up with a plan based on your individual goals and abilities, and be sure to challenge yourself. It’s also important to be prepared with proper footwear. Sturdy boots or sneakers with grips are a good option for hiking, while sandals or other open-toed shoes are not.
Do you want to really kick your hike up a notch? You should plan to take a backpack with some essentials: water for hydration, a high-protein snack for fuel, and a trail map to keep you on track, for starters. While these items are important for safety, this little bit of extra weight can also make the workout more effective. A backpack with thicker, supportive straps is best to protect your back, and it’s also important to make sure the weight is dispersed evenly between both shoulders.
Calories burned: about 240 per hour
• Carry any pumpkins you pick by hand.
• Walk the length of the pumpkin patch before you make a selection.
Similar to apple picking, exploring a pumpkin patch is a quintessential fall activity that can bring hours of fun—from actually picking the pumpkins to carving them. But carrying a big pumpkin is a lot of work, so much so that it could definitely replace your weight-lifting routine for the day.
The average carving pumpkin typically weighs between twelve and eighteen pounds, which is roughly the same weight as a small child—and we all know how heavy children can be. If you pick two carving pumpkins (one in each arm), that could be nearly forty extra pounds of weight to carry!
Although pumpkin patches are generally flat, the gourd’s extra weight can make your trip around the patch feel a lot more strenuous, especially if you walk the full expanse. If you aren’t afraid of a couple confused stares, you can even opt for lunging or squatting with your pumpkin(s) for some extra calorie burn (or you could wait until you get home for this).
You don’t have to stop at these fall-centric activities to make sure you get in your physical activity this season. No matter what you have on your agenda for autumn, there are always ways to fit in a workout while you embrace all this time of year has to offer.