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Your guide to a healthier autumn

28th September 2015

The crisp air and shorter days of autumn are the perfect time to get into some healthy habits, reports Julie Penfold. Autumn Health Tips

Hold on to your holiday high

With the summer break over for another year, it’s natural to feel a little deflated as you face the demands of your day-to-day routine. Ask yourself what is making you feel bluest, says life coach Eve Menezes Cunningham. “Is there any way you can delegate it? If not, schedule in a reward to get you through it. Having an extra day off will help you to decompress and re-acclimatise so by the time you’re back at work, you’re raring to go.”

While your holiday is still fresh in your mind, make a note of all your highlights, says Eve. “You can bring a taste of your best holiday memories to life by learning to cook your favourite holiday meals and listening to music that reminds you of your holiday.

“You can also adopt a touristy approach to your own town. When you were on holiday, did you enjoy exploring and allowing yourself to get lost? Allow yourself an afternoon to lose yourself in your home town. Create a local itinerary and make the most of the galleries, concerts and monuments in your vicinity.”

Improve your sleep habits

When trying to return to our usual routine, the habits we fell into during the holidays – such as going to bed later and enjoying a lie-in – can make getting to sleep tricky.

“Our bodies love routine and it’s key for a good night’s sleep,” says Lisa Artis at The Sleep Council. “However, your internal body clock will have been reset by the changes to your sleep over summer. You may find you still need to go to bed later but have to be up early for work or school, leading to you losing sleep. Start by backing up the time you go to bed by 10-15 minutes every day, until you get back to normal hours.”

Ensure a good night’s rest by winding down in the evening and getting yourself ready for sleep. Try a warm bath and a milky drink, or do something relaxing such as reading or listening to soothing music. It’s also important to keep tech out of the bedroom as the blue light it emits can impact on the body’s ability to sleep.

“A dark room is most conducive to sleep, as your body then releases a hormone called melatonin that helps you to drift off,” says Lisa. And don’t be tempted by the snooze button in the morning. “If you need that extra 10 minutes in bed, set the alarm clock for that time – it’s much more beneficial. Getting 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning can also help to reset your body’s internal clock.”

Focus on fitness

If your motivation for exercising outdoors is waning, just like the warmer weather, don’t be too hard on yourself, says fitness expert Laura Williams. “If you really can’t face an outdoor workout as the nights draw in, don’t force yourself, especially when you’re trying to adapt initially. Think of classes that you’ve been meaning to try for a while and include them in your weekly routine. Pack your gym kit before you head to work, plan your route to the new class and even pack a pre-workout snack so nothing can distract you.”

On days when you require a lower maintenance option, consider a fitness DVD, says Laura. She rates the 15-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, which is perfect for the time-poor; a dance-based celebrity offering; or a military-style boot camp done in the comfort of your own home.

When you feel ready to embrace the autumn chill, the weekends are ideal, she adds. “A Sunday jog will enable you to get your alfresco fitness quota as well as a much-needed dose of vitamin D.”

Don’t sniff at allergies

For many of us, the onset of the cooler, damper weather brings indoor allergies to the fore. As we spend more time indoors, with the windows shut, we increase our exposure to common allergy triggers such as house-dust mites, mould and even pets.

“Symptoms can include a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, wheezing and coughing,” says Lindsey McManus, deputy CEO at Allergy UK . “As the symptoms are very similar to the common cold, it can make it difficult for people to recognise they may have an allergy.”

Your GP can assist with identifying your allergy trigger. Meanwhile, there are practical steps you can take to minimise the effects.

“Have as few soft furnishings as you can, opt for hard floors and blinds,” says Lindsey. “Use a damp cloth [for dusting] and vacuum regularly. Using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will help to trap even the smallest particles of dust.”

It’s important to wash bedding regularly as this is where the majority of house-dust mites live, thriving in the warm, moist environment. “Wash your bedding at 60°C to kill off house-dust mites,” says Lindsey. “You should also throw back your bedding on a morning to air your bed and allow sun exposure to get to it.

“Anti-allergy bedding is also very useful as the mattress covering creates a barrier depriving mites of food (your skin cells) and moisture. Lastly, it’s very important to keep bedrooms clutter free as this helps to prevent dust build-up.”

 This article first appeared in Benhealth magazine, autumn 2015 (issue 32).

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