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Winter — and the holiday season — will be here before we know it. With the added stress and fuller schedules that often come with that time of year, it makes fall the perfect time to reassess the state of your health and to prepare for the challenges of the months ahead.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by the season, anticipate your needs and gain a new perspective on the tools and resources available to you so you can balance your time and enjoyment of these months.

1. Find a fitness program.

If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that self-accountability with fitness isn’t a strong point for most of us. One thing that can help is starting (or restarting) an exercise program to help boost your motivation and give you a plan to follow.

Our Life Time Digital app has a number of virtual fitness programs (complimentary for Life Time members) that you can choose from based on your goals. Each can help move you in the right direction and provide you a path for getting your fitness in line as we end this year. Plus, with features like workout reminders, stat tracking, and access to real coaches, there are added layers of accountability.

2. Plan to maximize your health savings account dollars. 

Many people now take advantage of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) or Flex Spending Accounts (FSAs) through their employers or banks. These funds (which aren’t considered taxable income) are yours to use on qualified healthcare expenses, which may include acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and sometimes even massages.

Direct-to-consumer lab testing is usually an allowed expense for such funds, and the fall is a great time to get your vitamin D levels checked — especially now due to its role in immune function. Blood levels of this crucial vitamin and pro-hormone should be peaking now, making it the ideal time to find out how much your body has accumulated over the warmer summer months so you can consider how much you may want to supplement with. Think of it as a solid investment in your winter health and immunity.

3. Take your workout outdoors.

The fall often offers beautiful scenery and comfortable temperatures. Consider biking outside your city limits or hiking in nearby parks and preserves to appreciate the cooler air and colorful art of autumn. You’ll gain the mental and physical health benefits of being outdoors, an opportunity to forget about the week’s stressors, and fit in a good day’s workout.

4. Make functional training work in a whole new way.

The best kind of workout is the one you don’t even know you’re doing.

Like I just mentioned in the above point, fall is a great time of year for being outdoors, and there are usually plenty of chores to be done (for homeowners at least). Why not kill two birds with one stone and get your workout done while raking your yard (or someone else’s)?

Many communities have programs in which you can volunteer to help your neighbors, such as those who are disabled or elderly, clean up their yards in preparation for the winter season. Alternatively, you could pitch in with fall cleanup for “adopted” roadsides near your city. Get creative and practice your squats or dead lift form while you help your community!

5. Be the healthiest party planner in your family (or your office).

Don’t let the holidays interfere with your focus around healthy eating. If your plans include gatherings, volunteer to provide some menu options that include more whole foods and fewer processed carbohydrates. Plan on bringing one of the main dishes to ensure everyone — including you — has a healthy, filling food option.

If you’re staying home and celebrating by preparing a healthy meal for yourself or your intermediate family, consider making a healthy holiday charcuterie board. You’ll save the time (and money) of cooking a big meal, but can enjoy the fun and variety of snackable foods like cheeses, cured meats, veggies, olives, and dips and spreads.

6. Pretend your spring break is on the horizon.

There’s almost nothing more exciting and motivating for a fitness goal than scheduling your next trip. But you don’t need to wait until the spring! Imagine you have a trip happening in January to help drive your motivation now to get your fitness and eating on track.

7. Sign up for a virtual event or challenge.

Finish lines — real or metaphorical — can be super effective for most people, as they often encourage a feeling of accomplishment while also motivating you to take some next step, or to seek out another destination in your fitness journey.

Life Time offers its 60day Challenge every holiday season to help spark motivation and accountability for those working on fitness, nutrition, and health goals this time of year. You could also consider creating your own virtual challenge amongst friends or colleagues, such as competing in a 5K against each other.

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Health Facebook group.

Paul Kriegler, RD, CPT

Paul Kriegler, RD, LD, CPT, CISSN, is the director of nutritional product development at Life Time. He’s also a USA track and field coach.

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