Fall is a great time of year to get outside and play. The summer heat has subsided and you can revel in the crisp autumn air. One advantage of outdoor fall activities is that they can be so fun and exhilarating you’ll barely notice that you’re getting exercise. And they’re a great way to model an active lifestyle to your kids or grandkids while spending some quality time together.
Here are five ideas for activities that will get the whole family moving.
Rake some leaves
Why it’s good: Bending your legs, moving your arms, and scooping up leaves is a great way to get your heart pumping. It also builds strength in your legs, core, shoulders, and arms.
Keep it safe: Practice proper raking posture to prevent injury, especially to the low back: Keep one foot slightly forward and bend at the knees, keeping your back flat. This way your leg muscles will take the brunt of the weight, not your back. To avoid overuse on one side of the body, switch arms every 10 minutes or so.
Make it kid friendly: Create a little competition. See who can make the biggest pile of leaves; the winner gets a prize. After you’ve got a few piles set up, let the kids jump in!
Play in the park
Why it’s good: The park is full of swings, jungle gyms, walking paths, and open fields so you’re sure to get a good workout no matter what you want to do.
Keep it safe: Pack a healthy lunch, some energy-boosting snacks (such as apple slices with nut butter or hummus with carrots and whole-grain crackers), and plenty of water. Even though the weather is cooler, you still need to keep well hydrated.
Make it kid-friendly: Play follow the leader: Take turns being the “coach” and order each other through activities like marches, forward lunges, side steps, and jumping jacks. Or set up an obstacle course with cones, using the jungle gym as the main event.
Find a 5K
Why it’s good: Participating in a charity race shows your children or grandchildren the value of keeping fit and giving back to society. Local 5Ks (short for 5 kilometers, or about 3.3 miles) tend to be abundant in fall, including around Thanksgiving, when many communities host “Turkey Trots” and similar events.
Keep it safe: Dress in layers. The first should be made of moisture-wicking fabric to wick sweat away from your skin. The next layer should focus on insulation, to help you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. If the day is gray and wet, add a windbreaker or lightweight rain shell on top to protect you from the elements.
Make it kid-friendly: If your family isn’t active already, start building endurance a few weeks before. Begin leisurely walking a few blocks, adding a little more distance each time you hit the road. Post your progress on a chart on the refrigerator so everyone can countdown to the big event.
Why it’s good. Spending time walking in natural settings can benefit both your mental state and your physical health, research shows. And fresh apples are a rich, portable source of nutrients and fiber, plus a delicious addition to many fall dishes.
Keep it safe: Slather sunscreen on exposed skin. Even on a cloudy autumn day, the sun can still do damage. And be sure to rinse apples before eating them, to prevent exposure to bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
Make it kid-friendly: Have kids separate apples by color. And make a game out of finding apples with no wormholes.
Buy a bike
Why it’s good: New models arrive in the stores as the summer riding season wraps up. You’re more likely to get a good deal when stores are trying to get rid of old inventory. Biking as a family is a great way to connect with nature and each other.
Keep it safe: Make sure everyone wears a helmet, whatever their age. The helmet should sit level on the head and about 1 to 2 finger-widths above the eyebrow. It should fit snugly and not rock or slide in any direction. The side straps should form a V under and slightly in front of each ear. Chin straps should be buckled and allow room for no more than 1 to 2 fingers between the chin and strap.
Make it kid-friendly: Make fun the goal—not speed, distance, or perfect technique. That might mean frequent stops for a snack, water break, sight-seeing, or even just some time to rest your bottom.