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Changing seasons, changing behaviors?

Note: This post is written by the team of The ONE Group (Oncology – Nutrition – Exercise) at Penn State College of Medicine as part of a first-person blog about their work. Learn more about the group here.

During the spring and summer, many of us get out and about walking, running, biking – taking advantage of the sunshine and warmth. It feels good to be outdoors and active. As fall sets in, many of us naturally want to retreat and stay indoors, craving the warmth and comfort of our homes. Emerging research shows that physical activity trends change with the seasons. The drop in outdoor temperature is related with decreases in physical activity.

Another thing that can worsen as the temperature gets cooler is our mood. Some of us experience a more negative affect as the seasons change. This may be associated with circadian rhythms and the shift in daylight. With fewer daylight hours, our bodies get less natural sunlight. That can translate into lower levels of melatonin and serotonin, which are naturally-occurring chemicals in the body that play a role in sleep and mood.

There are many things you can do to stay healthy and feeling good during the change in seasons! One thing to combat the change in seasons is to get outside. Even if it is chilly, bundle up and get out in the sunshine for a quick walk. Daylight (even if it’s cloudy out) and physical activity are mood-boosters! Speaking of physical activity, making time to move throughout the day can really improve our well-being. With COVID-19, finding an indoor space for exercise may take some creativity. However, many forms of activity take very little space. You can do any of The ONE Group’s online exercise videos with little space and minimal equipment. If being active indoors isn’t your thing, throw on some layers and get outside for a walk, run, hike or bike!

After coming in from the cold, you may crave comfort foods, and that’s great! Food can be a great source of comfort, and there are many seasonal comfort recipes that are packed with healthy ingredients. Try soups and stews that have lots of veggies – they are filling and provide a lot of the healthy nutrients your body needs. They are also warm and comforting, so they check all the boxes! Or roast some vegetables and have them take up at least half of your plate. With a little planning you can make warm, delicious foods that are healthy and can help you stay happy and healthy this season.

Staying active and eating well may take a little planning, and your behaviors may need to shift a little with the changing seasons. But the change in seasons shouldn’t change your overall health.

If you are finding it hard to deal with the change in seasons and your mood is poor, please see your doctor, as they can provide you with the help you need.

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