Change is in the air. Cooler temperatures, less daylight and the end of daylight savings all have an effect on our internal "clocks," and the older we get the more difficult change can be on our minds and bodies. Feeling good year round, especially during the turn of seasons, is possible as long as we make the right adjustments at the right time. So this year, when you turn back the clock and are granted that glorious extra hour of sleep, fine tune a few other habits (namely your diet and activity levels) and you will find yourself feeling better than ever, and perhaps feeling a little younger too.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to many serious health conditions. Before trying to change your sleep habits, find out what they are. There are a number of smartphone apps that can track your sleep habits and can shine the light on how many hours of deep sleep you are, or are not getting. Once armed with this awareness you can then make a few small changes that can add up to additional hours of good sleep. Commit to going to bed one hour earlier every night, make sure your bedroom is kept cool (around 65 degrees). Work on making a good night's sleep a daily event, not just once in the fall when you turn back the clocks!
A drop in temperatures can often result in a drop in fluid intake. Being dehydrated by as little as two percent can slow down your body's metabolism (number of calories you burn daily) and increase your fat storage. With the holidays just around the next corner, the last thing most of us need is to burn less and store more. Stay on top your hydration by continuing to consume 64 ounces of fluid a day. Sounds like a lot of drinking but if you enjoy your beverage of choice, it's really easy. Water is great of course but some of us like to have a little flavor. If this is the case, look for zero calorie, flavored nutrient enhanced water beverages like vitaminwater zero for that on-the-go refreshment. Also remember that carbonated beverages, with or without caffeine, are also hydrating for the body.
Fewer hours of daylight can also decrease our motivation to exercise. Less movement and more darkness can add up to less happiness and more mood swings. Within 20 minutes of cardio vascular exercise such as walking, running or cycling, the brain has begun to increase your serotonin (your happy hormone and good sleep neurotransmitter). The movement will also increase the function of your heart and lungs, making the rest of your life easier. Too much exercise too soon however, can induce stress. Start with 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week, and gradually increase your time by 5 minutes per week until you have reached 35 to 40 minutes for each session.
So this year as you turn back the clock remember: A little work and a little focus when it comes to sleep, nutrition and exercise can help you fall back in to healthy habits for feeling and looking your best. It can also ensure that you stay healthy and happy all winter long, and approach spring and summer ready for action!
Mary Beth Knight, an ACE and AFAA certified CEC provider, is the creator of the of Fit Revolution 10 week weight loss program, the Get Your Back on Track pain reduction program and is the owner of Revolution Fitness in Cincinnati, Ohio. She provides nutrition services and counsel to several organizations including The Coca-Cola Company.