October is a major month of transition for folks living in the vicinity of the forty-seventh parallel. During thirty-one days of the month, sunlight beaming above the horizon decreases a lot – ninety-six minutes total. As the darkness grows day-by-day, our photosensitivity to light alters our basic biological rhythm through the function of our pineal glands. At the very center of our brains between its two halves this small pinecone-shaped body reacts to diminishing light by increasing production of the hormone melatonin. This higher hormone level seduces us into slowing down, doing less each day and wanting more and more sleep.
The chill of temperatures, from long and frosty nights, arrives simultaneously with lower light stimulation. As a homeotherm, we want to maintain our core temperatures at an even 98.6o F. A solution can be a nice warm coat, mittens and a cap. Or better still, stay indoors and turn up the thermostat while having a few miniature Snicker Bars. Wait! Stop!! Not yet!
It’s getting darker and it’s getting colder. Who feels like giving up? We know this happens every year so why do we act so surprised when it does? October is the best of all months to begin your resolution of health and fitness each year. We are already pretty lean from a summer of fun, heat, light and eating fresh garden and orchard foods. Even though light is disappearing at a rate of 3-4 minutes per day we still have over ten hours of daylight most days. What we need is a plan to commit to in the time available after all the other life commitments are done. And it doesn’t have to be two hours or one hour. It just has to be 20-30 minutes of activity most days of the week. And in these darkening days strength training is a good way to boost the metabolism of your muscle mass.
As you engage your muscles in resistance exercises, this anaerobic activity boosts sugar use from your blood stream and muscle cells. This is important. Contracting muscles to use sugars alters the digestive process for storing the next meal’s calories. Instead of your sugar stores being full and your meal’s blood sugar spike needing to be downloaded into the next storage area…fat…your body can fill up the recently depleted muscle mass again. This process of storing and using our food energy is also a function of our basic metabolism. Balancing the intake/output for the next ninety days will create a behavior that allows your metabolism to go to bed in the dead of winter (New Year Day) rather than prematurely in autumn. Each exercise bout also creates friction that heats the muscle/blood/body core and perturbs that 98.6o we homeotherms try desperately to maintain. This thermogenic effect of exercise not only heats us up nicely but causes our systems to respond in an automatic way that only exercise can replicate over and over again. A conditioned response!