Now’s the perfect time to start a new exercise routine. As summer shades into autumn, that ‘new term’ feel offers the ideal opportunity for a fresh start. It’s also a great excuse to revamp your exercise kit, whether that’s a new pair of trainers, a wetsuit for cold water swimming or an eco-friendly yoga mat.
Plus, if you get into a new routine in the autumn, you’re more likely to carry it on as the nights get darker, helping you to stay fit through the depths of winter and into the new year.
Stride out into autumn
By staying active, you’ll also be doing your joints a favour, whether you’re striding, running, swimming or climbing.
Your joints are surrounded by capsules of connective tissue. Inside, cartilage protects the bones and a membrane secretes synovial fluid which lubricates the joint and helps reduce wear and tear.
When you’re physically active, it encourages the synovial fluid to circulate around the inside of the joint, helping your joints to move more smoothly. Exercise also stimulates your circulation, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your joints. At the same time, exercise strengthens your muscles, tendons and ligaments, building additional support for your joints so you can carry on enjoying your chosen activity.
Our tips for staying active
So what are the best ways to keep active this autumn? Here are our top five choices for exercises that are kind to your joints.
1. Join a walking group
There’s nothing like joining up with other people to make sure that you start and stick to a new exercise routine. Studies have shown that we’re more motivated to continue exercise when we’re with other people, for a variety of reasons. First of all, other group members hold us accountable and we don’t want to let them down by missing a session. We get the social benefit of feeling part of a group. Plus, for some, the competitive element of seeing who can go further or faster adds an enjoyable edge.
So why not join a walking group and make the most of crisp autumn days, surrounded by the beauty of nature? Get out there together, breathe in the fresh air and take in the sights as the leaves on the trees change colour.
There are over 500 Ramblers groups around Britain, so there may well be one close to you. Alternatively, see if there are any local walking groups you could join, or simply gather a group of friends and see what you can discover when you venture out together.
2. Volunteer outdoors
If you fancy combining exercise with doing something positive for nature and your community, try volunteering in the great outdoors.
There are lots of opportunities out there. Just pick an issue you feel passionate about and you can be sure there’ll be a group you can join. Here are a few for starters:
- The National Trust – get involved in all kinds of activities that will help conserve precious natural environments. You could find yourself building a dry stone wall, working in woodland or maintaining fences. You may even be able to create or lead guided walks for visitors.
- The Wildlife Trusts – get involved and do your bit to help preserve wildlife. Opportunities include community gardening, caring for nature reserves, laying hedges and managing habitats.
- The Canal & River Trust – if you’d like to stretch your muscles while enjoying the beautiful backdrop of stunning canals and rivers, sign up to volunteer with the Canal & River Trust. Join their Towpath Taskforce and you can help clear litter from land and water, repair towpaths, weed gardens and plant hedges.
3. Try cold water swimming
If you’ve never tried cold water swimming, why not give it a go before the temperature dips? It’s said to boost your immune system, improve your circulation, reduce stress and give you a natural high by encouraging your body to produce endorphins.
Plus, it’s a great way to meet people who will encourage you to keep the habit going. Start now and – who knows? – maybe you’ll be one of those people we see on TV on Christmas Day!
Stay safe by:
- Avoiding cold water swimming if you have a history of heart problems. Check with your doctor first.
- Acclimatising yourself to cold water gradually. Don’t go for your first swim in mid-winter when you have to crack ice to get into the water!
- Swimming with other people. Make sure others are around to provide help if needed.
- Wearing the right gear. Wise cold water swimmers wear gloves, a wetsuit, neoprene swim socks and a hat.
- Considering using a brightly-coloured float so you’re visible in the water, particularly if you’re swimming in the sea.
- Taking a flask of hot tea to help you warm up afterwards.
Find more useful advice from the National Open Water Coaching Association (NOWCA) site.
4. Climb indoors
If you’d rather stay nice and warm indoors this autumn, try your strength on an indoor climbing wall.
Indoor rock climbing is brilliant for helping you build and strengthen your muscles, giving you a full-body workout as you challenge yourself to get to the top. Plus, when you get there, you have the satisfaction of looking down to see how far you’ve come.
It’s a low-impact form of exercise that improves your flexibility while being good for your cardiovascular system. It can also help you enhance your coordination, as you look for the next hand and foot-holds and work out the best way to advance up the virtual rockface in front of you.
Check the British Mountaineering Council’s site to find a climbing wall near you.
5. Row your way through winter
Rowing is a low-impact sport that uses fluid movements that will avoid putting too much pressure on your joints.
Whether you’re in or out of the water, rowing will help you work your cardiovascular system, strengthen your core and improve your endurance.
On the water, you have the social benefits of linking up with others and enjoying being outside in nature. With indoor rowing, you can stay warm and dry and get a burst of an all-body workout that will help you feel great and stay fit over winter.
Find out more about the sport here at British Rowing.