As the days grow shorter, stay healthy and entice your family to keep exercising and enjoying fresh air, however tempting it may be to hibernate indoors!
There are good reasons for keeping active in autumn. Inactivity is now one of the biggest threats to lifelong health. Shorter days when we see little natural sunlight can leave us feeling jaded.
NHS Choices recommends that children aged from five to sixteen spend at least 60 minutes a day scampering around, so we’ve come up with six suggestions to help you get in some active autumn hours while having the most fun possible.
Just remember that autumn days can cool quickly when the sun goes down: dress appropriately, keep warm and eat well too!
- Geocaching. Geocaching is a treasure hunt, free to join, with a techie element for those who love their devices. Visit geocaching.com and centre the map on your home or a beauty spot – with 2.5 million caches hidden by members worldwide there is certainly one near you. Select a couple of caches, jot down the details, grab your GPS (or GPS-enabled phone) and off you go. The buzz from finding a tricky cache wired to a tree stump or tucked behind some ivy will encourage you to keep going, and once warm at home you can relive your list of finds on the website.
- Running. Every Saturday, all year round and all over the UK, runners gather in green spaces for parkrun, a safe, free and timed 5k run organised by volunteers. The group welcomes participants of all abilities – and some places offer a 2k course for four to 14-year-olds. Afterwards, view your results online and compare performance across sessions to get a sense of progression and achievement. To join in, visit parkrun.org.uk.
- Volunteering. Many public green spaces – and perhaps your school grounds – have a group of volunteers who clear scrub, build bonfires, pick litter and maintain paths. Outdoor work is strenuous and such schemes are often referred to as ‘green gyms’. Look out for calls to action on park noticeboards, or check in with The Conservation Volunteers, a national charity that aims to create happier communities, to see where your muscles and enthusiasm are needed locally.
- Trampoline parks. These places of wonder offer tens of thousands of square feet of trampolines, supervised, interconnected and open to all. Activities such as foam pits, dodge ball games and basketball are offered, and with trampoline parks springing up all over the country, there's bound to be one near you. Sessions can be popular though, especially on rainy days, so you will probably need to book.
- Cycling. Road cycling is not for everyone, but the Forestry Commission offers 2,500 km of cycle trails and many centres have bike hire facilities so you don’t have to worry about transport or equipment. To plan your forest adventure visit Cycle Happy or pop into your local cycle shop or café for advice.
- Gardening. If you or a friend/relative has a garden then maintaining it through autumn can be a mammoth task, with plants and trees shedding dying leaves all over the grass. But when children see piles of leaves as fun, and raked lawns as an opportunity to find insects and wildlife (sometimes even hedgehogs!), a few hours in the garden can be mentally and physically stimulating for all. A controlled and thoroughly supervised bonfire can also be a great way to keep children out of doors for longer. Keep them at a safe distance and away from smoke.
Keep it up
If your active day out has given you a taste for exercise, keep the good times rolling by incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Try walking to school once a week instead of driving, or sign up for an active school club such as a sport or dancing.
Active lifestyle organisation ukactive reminds us that lifelong, regular exercise prevents many physical and mental health problems and enhances and protects our brains. Exercise also improves children’s concentration levels. See ukactive and Youth Sports Trust for more information.