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11 Fun Fall Activities That Instantly Boost Your Health

It's science!


New research shows that healthy fall activities are really just our favorite cool-weather pastimes set against a backdrop of softly falling autumn leaves. Who knew getting healthy could be this fun?

Leaf-peeping deepens sleep.

Now that comfortably cooler weather is here and the changing leaves are bursting with color, there are plenty of reasons to head outside for a stroll. And here’s yet another: You’ll get better sleep! A study out of Taiwan found that a 30-minute daytime walk nixes pent-up stress so effectively, it helps you fall asleep twice as fast at night and spurs deeper rest.

Lift your spirits with a smiling pumpkin.

One fun way to spur a happy mood within minutes: Create a Halloween jack-o’-lantern by drawing a silly gap-toothed smile or scary face on your holiday pumpkin. No matter what your artistic skill level, the simple act of drawing sends 10 times more blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortex area of the brain. This activates unique reward pathways that fill you with joy, according to investigators at Philadelphia’s Drexel University.

Watch a football game.

Inviting friends over to watch your favorite team or cheering on your grandkids’ peewee football match is a surefire joy booster, according to research published in the Journal of Aging and Health. Surrounding yourself with other fans gives you a satisfy in sense of belonging, instantly increasing positivity.

Protect your heart with a hayride.

Many local farms offer hayrides and corn mazes this time of year. And that’s great news when it comes to keeping your blood pressure in check. Research out of Japan found that breathing in the “green” scent of hay and cornstalks lowers your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by up to 67 percent in one minute. Credit goes to aromatic compounds that tamp down an over active sympathetic nervous system (responsible for your “fight or flight” response), helping blood flow more freely. Tip: Taking a whiff of freshly mowed grass or trimmed bushes works too!

Savor s’mores.

When you make this classic treat with dark chocolate, you’ll lower your systolic BP by as much as 64 percent for two hours, even if you’re feeling a little tense, shows new research out of Slovakia. When stressed, muscles put the squeeze on blood vessels. But antioxidants in dark chocolate loosen them back up by releasing the vessel-relaxing compound nitric oxide.

Stay sniff le-free by visiting a winery.

Fall is grape-harvest season, making it a perfect time for a wine-tasting tour or simply relaxing with a glass on your porch at the end of the day. And in happy news, sipping 5 oz. of red wine daily makes you 35 percent less likely to catch a cold, flu or other virus, Spanish scientists say. Credit goes to antiviral flavonoids and anti-inflammatory resveratrol — two key compounds found in red grapes that bolster your immune system’s ability to fend off viral invaders.

Knit a scarf.

Just five minutes a day of small, repetitive motions keeps you healthy. Stanford scientists say the fine motor control and nerve stimulation curbs the release of immunity-weakening stress hormone.

Sharpen memory with the fall TV lineup.

Remembering something new you’ve learned is as easy as turning on the TV! Scientists at Milwaukee’s Marquette University found that folks who watched an action-packed, dramatic or suspenseful TV show shortly after learning new information recalled 21 percent more a week later. Arousing your emotions with an engaging TV show releases hormones that help your brain process and store new details more effectively.

Sniff cinnamon.

Smelling cinnamon as you learn helps you retain more, Ohio Northern University scientists say. It stimulates the brain to better absorb information.

Tame tiredness by planting bulbs.

Planting daffodils or irises ensures a colorful display in spring, and it ups your energy now. Texas A&M University scientists found that 32 percent of folks who garden feel youthful and energetic compared to those who skip it, regardless of age. The gentle movement boosts energizing blood flow and releases fatigue-fighting brain chemicals.

Open the windows!

A Harvard study found letting in an autumn breeze flushes out brain-fogging carbon dioxide and air pollutants from your home, improving alertness by 61 percent.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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