7 Surprising Things That Happen To Your Body In Fall

It's not just the season that's changing—you are too, in some very strange ways.

November 1, 2016
cyclist in autumn

The days grow shorter. The sun rises later and sets earlier. Leaves turn. Squirrels start squirreling and humans start putting pumpkin in everything. These are the predictable signs of the changing of the seasons, and as it turns out, the trees and hibernators aren't the only ones who go through some serious changes as summer transitions to winter. You do too in some pretty startling ways. Here are a few. 

This article was originally published by our partners at Bicycling.

sad puppy
1/7 Natalia Fadosova/Shutterstock
You Cry Over Puppy Photos

Or maybe you stare wistfully out your window pondering the meaning of it all. Whether you call it seasonal affective disorder (SAD), seasonal depression, or winter blues, it's very common for your mood to take a dip when autumn arrives. Though scientists are still teasing out all the causes, changes in multiple hormores and neurotransmitters, like cortisol, are at least partly to blame. Cortisol levels are closely linked with sleep-wake cycles and light exposure. Overnight, your levels typically increase gradually and then burst in the morning as the sun rises, in what's known as the cortisol awakening response. With darker days, some folks don't get that burst and remain sleepy and fatigued and moody during the day. 

"Scientists also have demonstrated seasonal changes in dopamine and serotonin—two neurotransmitters that are intimately tied to depression," says neurologist and sleep specialist W. Christopher Winter, MD, author of The Sleep Solution. Regular exercise—especially outdoors in the daylight—can help brighten your mood and stave off SAD. 

Related: 6 Foods To Boost Your Mood This Winter

working in an office
2/7 Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
You'll Earn A Gold Star At Work

You know how Spring Fever can make you distracted at work? That phenomenon flips when the weather starts turning for the worse. Cool, blustery, back-to-school type days are prime time for high productivity, according to a Harvard study of 136 students, which found that inclement weather led to increased productivity as the students were less distracted by potential non-work related activities. Think of those dreary November days as an opportunity to shine on the job.

standing on a scale
3/7 Shutterstock
Your Waistline Widens

As your serotonin levels drops with the diminishing daylight, you may find yourself more vulnerable to the call of comfort foods, particularly of the high carb variety, which can help boost serotonin levels back to what feels normal. Since that increase in appetite generally coincides with less daylight to exercise, seasonal weight gain is common. Don't worry too much if it's only a couple of pounds that you lose when the days grow longer again. But if you have a hard time kicking your seasonal weight gain, try cooking healthier comfort foods. If you have to shorten your workouts due to weather, consider upping the intensity—like a spin class with intervals or weight training, which will raise your metabolism, burn fat, improve your mood, and quell cravings.

man on his cell phone
4/7 Kostenko Maxim/Shutterstock
You Tighten Your Social Circle

Chilly, dark weather makes you more likely to cocoon inside rather than go out and socialize. But you may find yourself on your cell chatting to your close friends and family more often. A year-long study of more than 22,600 cell phone users reported that people made longer calls when the weather was colder—and made most of their calls to closer friends and family rather than to their wider social network.

Related: Cyclist's Cell Phone Ignites In Shorts Pocket After A Crash

hitting alarm clock
5/7 Shutterstock
You Hit Snooze A Few Too Many Times

This is true especially if you live in a northern or snowy state. While we don't necessarily need science to tell us how tempting it can be to stay snuggled up in bed on a dark and dreary day, a survey of more than 140,000 people found that people in snowier states sleep about 13 minutes longer during cold weather months than those in sunnier states. "This is most likely a result from an increased level of the sleep promoting chemical melatonin in our brains," says Winter. "Melatonin production is blocked by light, so as the days get shorter and light becomes more scarce in gray winter days, melatonin levels tend to be higher, making us sleepy."

Related: Food To Improve Your Sleep Quality

6/7 ra2studio/Shutterstock
You Start Thinking Outside The Box

How warm or chilly we feel influences our creativity, according to a study published in Acta Psychologica. Being warm makes us more "relationally" creative, which refers to the way we think about relationships between people and objects. When we're chilly, our more distant, abstract creativity thrives. So now is the time to come up with new, creative projects and ideas!

Related: The New Heroes Of Cycling

7/7 Zanna Holstova/Shutterstock
You'll Feel A Little Frisky

Fall is when deer and other mammals go into a rut, as they say. Well, people may have a similar seasonal response. In a study of seasonal variation of the sex hormone testosterone, researchers from Norway found that levels of this libido-fueling hormore peaked in October and November.

Related: 6 Ways Cycling Can Improve Your Sex Life

Tags: FeaturesFall