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Maintaining That Summer Shape

Ahhh, summer. It’s the season of hot temperatures, skimpy bathing suits, backyard barbecues and swimming pools. It’s relatively easy to focus on health, fitness and how we look during the summer. After all, the clothing we wear in the summer practically forces us to think about how fit we are (or aren’t).

Many people have a tendency to drop between ten and twenty pounds each summer simply because IT’S SUMMER. The constant reminder of how we look, combined with heightened activity levels, make people conscious of health and fitness on a whole new level. We are frequently reminded of how we look because we’re wearing fewer clothes (anyone wear shorts this month?). We’re also more active during the summer because of fantastic summer activities like biking, swimming and hiking.

While these lifestyle changes lead to serious summer results, we often pay the price each autumn. Activity slows down, the kids go back to school, we’re wearing baggy clothes again, and the incentive to stay fit seems to vanish faster than a plate of fudge at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Take heart! No longer are we destined to lose a few pounds every summer, only to gain it back every autumn! We CAN break this vicious cycle, and we can do it NOW! There are three steps we need to take if we are going to maintain that summer shape and stay fit through the fall:
1) Eat like it’s still summer.
2) Play like it’s still summer.
3) Change our exercise schedule.

If we’re going to maintain the fitness progress we accomplished over the summer, the first thing we need to do is eat like we did during the summer. That means lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and an ample supply of water.

Because fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods are so abundant during the summer, we naturally ‘eat healthier’ during this season. While our gardens may be slowing down some in the autumn, we can still find everything we need at the grocery store or the local farmers market.

The second way to maintain that summer shape is to play like it’s still summer. Between long walks, sports, activities on the water and bicycle riding we naturally burn more calories during the summer. With the approach of fall comes shorter days, less daylight, and a tendency to spend more time indoors.

This inclination to decrease our activity levels in the autumn, combined with our propensity to eat fewer fruits and vegetables, can add up to some serious weight gain. Summer pastimes burn calories, and when we eliminate those activities we may gain weight. For example, a 40 year old, 5′ 5″ woman burns about 136 calories by gardening for thirty minutes. No gardening in the fall? No weight loss.

We can take action by staying active all year long. We can volunteer to rake leaves for a neighbor, take walks at dusk, or join an amateur sports team. The key is to stay busy.

Finally, the third way to stay fit through the fall is to change our exercise schedule if needed. The kids are back in school now, and the days are getting shorter. Both of these facts are convenient excuses to skip the exercise routine we developed over the summer. Our best defense is to stop, think and carefully evaluate our schedule. Do we have time to exercise in the morning? How about the evenings? The United States Surgeon General recommends only thirty minutes of exercise per day, and it’s extremely rare to find anyone who cannot fit a half-hour of exercise into their schedule.

The key to success here is to honestly evaluate our daily ‘autumn’ agenda, make exercise a priority, and make time to work out. How about going to the gym during the lunch hour? Maybe before breakfast would be a better time for us. Some people have better luck with late-night exercise, while still others vary the time they work out each day. The bottom line is that no time is a bad time to exercise.

The changing of the seasons doesn’t have to change the number on the scale. We have the power to maintain the progress we’ve made over the summer. Even better, we have the power to make even more health and fitness progress this fall!

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