Work Off Thanksgiving Calories With Fun Family Activities

Thanksgiving Day is traditionally centered around the holiday feast, but you can burn calories from the big meal by staying active. Dr. Stequita Jackson, a primary care physician at Baylor College of Medicine, offers tips on how the entire family can eat well and stay active this Thanksgiving.

Many families like to kick off Thanksgiving Day by participating in a race like a Turkey Trot. Jackson recommends eating carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grains before big activities like a race to provide the fuel needed to get through exercise. Following the race, eating lean meats, like Thanksgiving turkey, is a good source of protein that aids in the recovery phase.

Backyard games like flag football, soccer and badminton can be good ways to get the whole family on their feet. Jackson also suggests setting up exercise stations that can meet everyone's fitness level. Elderly family members can focus on walking and gentle stretches. Younger family members can add in squats, pushups and more aerobic activities like short sprint races. Jackson recommends warming up before starting a workout and cooling down when you're done to prevent injury.

"Know your body and know your limitations," warned Jackson, assistant professor of family and community medicine. "If you know you have a bad knee, don't do something like jumping jacks that will put a lot of impact on your joints. People who aren't able to play can still participate as cheerleaders or score keepers for the team."

The best activity for the whole family to accommodate all ages and fitness levels is walking. "A walk around the neighborhood can be especially beneficial after the Thanksgiving meal to help with digestion and improve blood sugar levels," Jackson said. Walking after eating, rather than lying down for a nap, also can help prevent acid reflux. But if Thanksgiving Day is too hectic to get in a walk or a workout, don't feel stressed about eating your holiday meal.

"You should never feel guilty about eating," Jackson said. "Try not to overindulge, and remember that balance is key. The goal is to enjoy the meal, but not be so full that you can't move for the rest of the day. If you can't get a workout in the day of, there's always tomorrow!"


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