When we think of Thanksgiving, some images that come to mind may usually be of large, extravagant feasts, lots of time at home with our loved ones, and of course, a good nap on the couch after dinner. However, Thanksgiving can be difficult for those of us working towards getting our families to be more active on a regular basis. Although missing a day here and there isn’t always such a bad thing, sometimes a day like Thanksgiving can throw us off our fitness rhythm—an effect that can carry on well beyond the holiday itself.
On top of trying to counteract the effects of a high-calorie Thanksgiving dinner, exercise and light activity after a big meal has other benefits. Some studies of people at-risk for type 2 diabetes were found to have much smaller spikes in their blood sugar with a walk after dinner, sometimes as short as fifteen minutes. This is because our muscles require some glucose-based energy to move, which means they’ll be taking some out of your bloodstream. Walking after eating has also been shown to help aid digestion, which can be a huge benefit when trying to counteract that post-turkey heartburn.
So how can we incorporate some of our healthy habits into this year’s Thanksgiving dinner? Read on for our top five ideas!
1. Post-dinner walks instead of post-dinner naps
For many of us, Thanksgiving simply would not be complete without turkey-induced sleep on the nearest couch. However, if you can encourage a group of you to throw on a jacket and head out for a stroll after dinner, you can work off some of the calories from your meal while making room for dessert at the same time. You could keep it simple by walking around the neighbourhood, or possibly make an event of it and find a nearby trail or hike for more of a challenge.
If you’re able to, another good alternative to walking and hiking is a light bike ride. This is a great way to keep moving after dinner, and you might even be able to find a spot to watch the sunset on your way. It should be noted that while some light activity after dinner is a great way to keep in the routine of fitness, lower blood sugar, and improve digestion, there is such a thing as too much. More intense exercises like running may actually slow down some of these processes, so make sure everything is in moderation (dinner and libations included).
2. Play an active game with the kids
Kids especially need ways to burn off some of the energy they build up during large meals and social get-togethers. You can help keep them active and occupied by coming up with a game for them to play before or after dinner. The type of game can vary drastically—some families have a tradition of flag football, or a Thanksgiving-themed scavenger hunt. If the weather isn’t good for outdoor games, you can bring it inside with games like charades or musical chairs. Whatever you decide, try to make it as fun and active for the kids as possible. If you do it right, the adults might join in as well!
3. Choose active ice-breakers
If you’ve ever tagged along with a friend or partner to their Thanksgiving dinner, you know how tough it can be at first to break the ice with new people. If it’s your turn to host this year, consider finding a way to make the ice-breakers into an active occasion for everyone. If you’re able to spend time outdoors before dark, consider setting up the yard for a game of bocci or lawn bowling. If outside isn’t an option, you can still get to know each other while staying active. In fact, most of the games recommended for kids can be just as fun for adults, helping people to get acquainted while staying active at the same time.
4. Work up an appetite
A walk after dinner is a great way to let off some steam after a big meal, but the same goes for beforehand as well. Depending on what level of activity your family is comfortable with, you could keep it simple with a walk in the park, or a leisurely bike ride, or you could up the challenge. Some families have a tradition of taking a longer hike in the day so they can really work up their appetite before the big evening.
5. Lend a hand
Thanksgiving dinners are usually a lot of work for the host, and that’s only taking the food into account. There are often many other household chores that need to get finished beforehand, so get into the spirit of giving by offering to lend a hand to your host. You could consider coming a little early and offering to rake the yard or chop some firewood, or even help with the heavier lifting tasks of moving beverages, ingredients, and the turkey to their positions before dinner. By offering your help with whatever needs to be done, you’ll be able to get active prior to the festivities, and your host will definitely appreciate your help as well.
Keeping active through Thanksgiving
As you can see, there are more ways to keep the family moving during Thanksgiving than you may initially think. With a little creativity and the motivation to keep up with your routine of activity, you can easily get the whole party moving and active, and have fun while doing it.
If you have more questions about keeping up with your fitness rhythm, or if you’d like individualized suggestions to help keep you and your family as active and healthy as possible, Nova Active Rehab can help. Don’t hesitate to contact us today!