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Fall into Healthy Habits After Summer

We offer four tips for easing into the fall season.

9/21/2016 | Academics | 8 minute read

Written By:
Leslie Helmuth

Here at Harvard, summer is coming to a close. As the season changes, daylight disappears sooner, corduroys replace swimsuits, and foliage lives out its "golden years."

Sometimes it can be hard to avoid letting our mood and behavior mirror the seasonal shift. But you don't have to succumb to a steady slide into winter. Get a head start on those New Year’s resolutions by forming new healthy habits now.

Here are four ways you can get fall off on the right track—courtesy of our Summer School think tank.

person sleeping in bedWAKE UP! GET THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF SLEEP

After summer’s leisurely pace, the ramp up of fall responsibilities can make you feel like you’re scrambling to keep up. Competing priorities at school and work, family commitments, and other activities easily eat away the hours in any given day.

Many of us sacrifice sleep in favor of getting things done. But you are cutting out a key contributor to your health and success.

According to Harvard Medical School, sleep improves your immune function, metabolism, memory, and learning capabilities—basically all the ingredients needed to be superhuman. But for many motivated and high-achieving people, those 6 to 8 hours consistently elude them.

Here are a variety of tips from Huffington Post to help you get in the habit of catching the optimal amount of z’s. A few of our favorites include scheduling sleep as if it were an appointment, painting your bedroom walls a tranquil color, minding what you eat before bedtime, or even wearing socks to bed.

top of pumpkinSWITCH OUT PUMPKIN SPICE LATTÉS FOR ACTUAL PUMPKIN

Once we pack away our swimsuits and flip flops, maintaining healthy eating habits can be a challenge. After all, there are so many comfort foods to enjoy. Where would we be without the pumpkin spice latté?

But let’s consider this popular, calorie-rich beverage: 16 ounces of this Starbucks treat contains 380 calories, 14 grams of fat, and zero grams of fiber. Compare that to a 16 ounce serving of real pumpkin, which contains only 98 calories, .34 grams of fat, and 5.4 grams of fiber, according to the USDA’s National Nutrient Database.

Various health organizations and blogs champion consuming pumpkin in its many forms: raw, pureed, canned. And don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin is a nutrient-rich food that boosts heart health, improves vision, and may even prevent certain types of cancer in men.

Here are some healthy pumpkin recipes to inspire you in the kitchen this fall.

photo of a sunny field(STILL) SOAK UP THE SUNSHINE

You may be lamenting the shorter days, but there is still ample opportunity to capture some sun—and its benefits—in the fall.

On sunny days, taking regular walks outside helps increase your production of vitamin D, which keeps your bones strong and healthy, promotes weight loss, and serves as an instant mood booster when seasonal affective disorder kicks in.

Too little exposure to the sun can also increase the risk of developing other cancers like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers among others.

But what if the sun rarely peeks out? Consider talking to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement, or eat more foods rich with vitamin D, like fish and orange juice. You can also invest in a sun therapy lamp during the fall and winter months. Turn it on, close your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes, and be instantly transported back to summer.

photo of feet walking across log in forestTHINK MORE ACTIVITY, LESS EXERCISE

It’s OK to be skeptical of anyone who claims to love exercise. Anyone willing to admit that sweating excessively and breathing heavily is a euphoric experience cannot be trusted.

However, just like quality sleep and good nutrition, exercise is essential to your overall health and well-being. Many of us can find an excuse to avoid the gym. But who says you have to go to the gym to stay fit?

By simply being active, you can burn enough calories to stay in shape. Take to the outdoors for a workout or long hike. Walk or bike to school or work. Volunteer for a local charity and ask for the job that requires the most movement.

Such alternatives to the gym come with built-in motivations. After all, many organizations encourage philanthropic efforts of their employees, and outdoor activities can include family or friends. You can quickly pick up the habit if you are doing something that you love.

We hope you get off on the right foot this fall and pick up some healthy habits.

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