It’s October! Here in Kansas City, the days are getting cooler and night is falling a little earlier every day, the leaves are starting to change and fall. The season change to autumn can be beautiful and refreshing, but it can also be a time that we are all more prone to getting sick and to losing our healthy summertime habits.

What are the small changes that you can make right now to put the odds in your favor to stay healthy through this fall and set yourself up for a healthy holiday season and a healthy winter?

Fewer Hours of Daylight

We’re getting fewer hours of daylight already, and in just a few weeks, we will also have the daylight savings time change to deal with. Fewer hours of daylight have two impacts on our healthy habits. First, it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, and second, it can be harder to fit in exercise.

Biologically, we are wired to come out of REM sleep when the light from the sunrise begins hitting our eyes. When it is dark in the morning and your alarm clock is often ripping you out of a deep sleep cycle, which can make it difficult to adjust to your day.

Two things can help with this:

Get up at the same time every single day. Yes, I do mean including weekends. This helps set your body’s internal clock so that your body will be accustomed to getting up at that time and will begin pulling you out of REM sleep before your alarm goes off.

Buy a sunrise alarm clock. This is an alarm clock with a light bulb inside it. 30 minutes before your alarm is set to go off, the light bulb starts slowly brightening until it it at full brightness when your alarm sounds.

The sunrise alarm clock can help you get up and have an easier morning. It also can help with symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Now how can we keep up our healthy exercise routine? It is hard to go exercise outside when it is dark both before and after work, and it may start to feel, or be, less safe to jog along the side of a busy road.

My recommendation is to work with your schedule and do what you like. For most of us, we have a preference for either morning workouts or evening workouts. Go with your preference. If you need to stop exercising outside, look to join a gym close to home or close to work to make it as convenient as possible. Finally, choose to do the exercise that you enjoy. If you don’t like running and it takes a ton of effort to get out the door, it probably won’t happen most days. Instead, choose the exercise that you want to do or that you are excited about. For you maybe it’s kickboxing, or maybe it’s zumba. Find a class and make it part of your routine.

Colder Weather

You don’t catch a cold from colder temperatures, but studies have shown that being physically cold can weaken your immune system’s ability to fight off an infection. Your immune system functions best at body temperature, so it’s important to keep yourself warm. Wear a scarf to keep your body heat in, and so that you have an easy layer that can be removed when you are inside and warm.

Changing Food

In the summer, it’s easy to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, because they are so widely available and they are delicious. As we move into fall, we don’t have watermelons, peaches, and strawberries as available to us. Fall turns us toward comfort food, which can often be very heavy and calorie dense.

To combat the rich comfort food, look to incorporate seasonal produce in your diet. Seasonal food is more nutrient rich and can be more affordable.

Some of the fruits that are in season this fall are grapes, apples, pears, plums, and raspberries. Some of the vegetables are winter squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, radishes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Experiment with new recipes to find healthy ways to prepare these seasonal foods.

Flu Shot Season

October is when flu shots begin to be widely offered. It is a personal choice whether you get a flu shot or not, but I would like to offer a few other ways to boost your immune system and keep yourself healthy through flu season.

  • Rehydrate your nasal passages. Just dip a q-tip in extra virgin olive oil and rub it gently around the inside of each nostril.
  • Get enough sleep. 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep will be enough.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink ½ of your body weight in ounces of water every day.
  • Clean your nasal passages with a neti pot or a Nasopure nasal wash system.

Making a few small changes now will help you have a healthy transition into fall and will keep you healthy through the winter.

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