The summer of 2023 was the hottest on record. Extreme temperatures and other environmental factors may have prevented some people from keeping up with their usual exercise routines – or been an excuse for people to not start living more active lifestyles.
However, with cooler weather coming, now is the perfect time to pick up or return to outdoor fitness routines – potentially starting with one of these great autumn activities. They’re great ways to get outdoors while keeping that core temperature up in the increasingly chilly air.
Walking, Running, Jogging, or Hiking
Walking, running, and jogging can all be done indoors. If you live in a place where summer temperatures did keep you inside, hopefully you made a few laps around your local gym or even your local mall.
However, Hiking is only possible outdoors and walking, running, and jogging can all be a lot more enjoyable with some natural scenery. As autumn activities, changing colors can be an added incentive.
Remember though, with cooler weather come shorter days. If you’re going to be enjoying autumn activities like walking, running, or jogging outdoors early in the morning or later in the evening, remember to wear something that stands out so that motorists can see you. A lot of motorists still aren’t used to having their headlights on while driving to or from work.
If you’re new to hiking, this activity can also be safest during the day when visibility is high. Experienced or not, let someone know where you’re going when you take to the wilds for any of these autumn activities.
Walking won’t get most people’s hearts and lungs pumping too hard, but it’s a great start if you’re new to exercising, if you’re older or heavier, or if you have joint problems that might make some other activities challenging for you. Also, because walking is slow, it is one of the best autumn activities for enjoying nature.
If you don’t know literally where to begin, consider just walking around your neighborhood. This can be a great way to start if you don’t know how far you can go before needing a break. To change up the scenery, consider driving to a nearby park, or even tying a walk in before you get some errands done the next time that you have to go into town (or out of town).
Running is definitely a more time-efficient exercise when we’re talking about burning calories to lose weight or keep fit. A lot of people also find it more enjoyable than walking because it’s more of a challenge and because of natural feel-good chemicals that your brain releases when you run hard enough long enough.
Running is also a lot more work for your heart and lungs. The good news is that this can have long-term health benefits that can keep you feeling better longer. You move through the world a bit faster, so it’s not as good for sight-seeing, but the cool temperatures this time of year make running a lot more comfortable than in the hotter (or colder) months, making it one of the best autumn activities.
The bad news is that the intensity of running can pose a health risk if you have certain heart conditions or breathing problems like asthma. That doesn’t mean that you can’t run, it just means that it’s probably a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start.
We can think about jogging as being between walking and running – both in terms of speed and in terms of health benefits at least step-for-step. Some people prefer jogging to running for their autumn activities because it’s healthier and more challenging than walking but they can jog farther and longer than they can run. If that’s the case for you, then jogging might just be better for you than running.
Be aware, however, that jogging can be tough on your joints – particularly your ankles, knees, and lower back, and particularly if you don’t have the right shoes for it. As with running, talk to your doctor before you start jogging if you have heart or lung conditions. Even if you don’t have any existing health issues, talk to the clerk at your local shoe store about what kind of shoes will do the best for your body.
Hiking can become a full-body exercise pretty quickly, and going up those hills can be a big muscle workout in a short time. Like any activity, it’s okay to start slow and start small. You can still work up a sweat while hiking, but it’s not as intensive on your heart and lungs, so it can be a good step up from walking for people that have a heart or breathing condition that prevents them from running or jogging.
Hiking is one of the best autumn activities for enjoying the beauty of nature and many hiking areas provide well-maintained trails that pose little risk to even the greenest hikers.
Inline-skating, Roller-skiing, and Skateboarding
Autumn is a time of seasonal transition. With the right equipment, autumn activities can also be opportunities to transition into winter sports. Whether you’re looking to improve your performance on ice and powder, looking to extend your love for winter sports into the other seasons, or just looking to try something new, inline-skating, roller-skiing, or skateboarding can be just what the doctor ordered.
Inline Skates are a special kind of roller skate with all four wheels arranged in a line down the middle of each skate instead of in a two-by-two configuration. Any kind of skating can be a fun activity for any season, but inline skating lands on our list of great autumn activities because the wheel configuration simulates the feeling of an ice skate, making it a great way to keep in form for figure skating or hockey.
Inline skating uses a lot of the same muscles as walking, but it uses those muscles differently, so don’t be surprised if it feels differently on your body. Maintaining balance can also be more difficult while roller-skating than while walking, so it can put a gentle burn in some core muscles and even some upper-body muscles that might feel more neglected during other seemingly similar activities.
Roller-skis are to cross-country (or “nordic”) skiing as inline skates are to ice skating. Roller Skis have the classic ski shape but with a wheel on the end of each ski. You even use ski poles to propel yourself along just like when using traditional cross-country skis on the snow. Roller-skiing and cross-country skiing are both excellent full-body exercises and great ways to get outdoors in colder weather.
Of course, you can roller-ski any time of year (other than winter). However, as with inline skates, roller-skiing landed our list of autumn activities because roller-skis can be a great way to get in form for a season of cross-country skiing.
By the way, in case you haven’t tried it, cross-country skiing is a great full-body outdoor winter sport. Some places have cross-country ski clubs with their own trails. Some even rent equipment.
To watch someone skateboard through town, it might look like a decent workout for one leg and nothing else. If you skateboard for exercise, you can be sure to alternate which leg you push with but, even when you don’t, skateboarding is a bit more involving than it looks.
Turning or even just weaving to keep momentum on a flat stretch can be really taxing on the lower legs. And, like skating, maintaining balance can use a lot of lower back and core muscles in ways that may not be apparent to the observer.
Like all of the autumn activities in this section, skateboarding is physiologically similar to a winter sport – in this case, snowboarding. There are some significant differences, of course: Snowboarding doesn’t really work on flat land and kicking isn’t really part of the equation. But, the strategy and muscles involved for things like steering and maintaining balance are similar in both sports.
Biking is another of the classic outdoor autumn activities. Many communities have opportunities to bike on paved surfaces, more scenic bike paths, or rustic mountain bike trails – depending on your area and experience level.
We would be remiss to neglect a few notes: If you are biking around town, be sure to understand how bike laws work in your community. Can you bike on sidewalks? What about the road? Are there areas of your community with designated bike lanes? And, as with all of these autumn activities, think of safety first.
Biking brings a lot of the enjoyment of running, but is easier for a lot of people with more limited mobility. Because pedaling is less jarring to your joints than running or jogging, it can be preferable for people with joint health issues in their ankles and knees.
Further, because the bike takes on body weight rather than the legs, it can be a more sustainable sport for people who may be carrying a few extra pounds. In either case, see if you can take a spin on a loaner bike to make sure it’s right for you before investing.
This activity didn’t make the list of great autumn activities because of its proximity to a winter sport. However, “fat tire” bikes are becoming more popular. These bikes look and work like regular bikes, but exceptionally wide tires allow them to handle snow (or sand) a lot better than traditional bike tires.
You think it’s too late for gardening? Think again!
Many people think of gardening as a summer activity. But, getting a garden ready for the next growing season is one of the all-time classic autumn activities.
Start or expand a garden patch by tilling up dirt. While you’re at it, rake up some leaves and till those into the dirt to infuse it with nutrients for next year. Want to play the long game? Build a compost bin to turn yard and food scraps into healthy soil.
Not only homeowners can be gardeners. If you rent a home, duplex, or condo, consider asking your landlord if you can start a small flower garden. If you live in an apartment building, consider joining (or starting) a community garden in your neighborhood.
But, is gardening one of the healthier autumn activities? Go out there and try it for a few hours.
If you don’t take our word for it, the American Heart Association classifies gardening as “moderate-intensity aerobic activity” – the same classification as brisk walking, biking under 10 mph, or playing doubles tennis. That makes it one of the best autumn activities in our book.
Pick Your Favorite Autumn Activities and Get Out There!
Whether it’s the cooler temperatures, the promise of fall foliage, or trying to gear up for winter sports, this can be a great time of year to experiment with new outdoor adventures. Hopefully this introduction to autumn activities has given you some inspiration for your fitness journey.