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How to Have an Active Thanksgiving

We could all use some motivation to get outside and be active during the holidays. Indulging in large meals and managing the stress of the season can all wreak havoc on our bodies—both mentally and physically. Here are ways to keep your body moving this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. 

Are You Ready for Some Football?

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Image by Kevin Dodge

Well before Lucy pulled the football away from Charlie Brown, families and friends had gathered to play football, just like NFL teams do on Thanksgiving day every year. The first Turkey Bowl is said to have taken place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving Day of 1869 before the NFL was created. The NFL began playing on Thanksgiving in 1920. Why not take part in this American tradition? Gather up the old high school team, throw a jersey on grandma, or just have a simple game of throwing the pigskin in your backyard. Whether your teams are big or small, you are sure to work up an appetite while having some fun. If football isn’t your thing, a game of tag, kickball or monkey in the middle are great alternatives. Just watch the fowl play! 

Embrace the Season 

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Image by Luca Sage

Whether you have snow on the ground or more mild temps, embrace the holiday season by indulging in winter activities. Grab the skis to hit the slopes for some pre- or post-feast calorie burning, or break out the snowshoes for a trek through the snow. If there is not enough snow for a good old-fashioned snowball fight, sledding, or snowman building, find a local outdoor rink and skate away to your favorite holiday tunes. In major cities, botanical gardens, zoos, and other attractions offer holiday light shows that you can meander through and enjoy. Extravagant Clark Griswold-type personal displays can be found in towns across the country, so take a stroll down Reindeer Road or Candy Cane Lane.

Find the “Most Important” of Christmas Symbols

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Image by Thomas Barwick

If you celebrate Christmas, the days after Thanksgiving are often spent decorating for the next holiday. Start the Christmas season like Clark Griswold by heading into a national forest to cut down your own “most important of Christmas symbols”—a tree. Get a little lost in the woods by building a snowman, having a snowball fight, or even try sledding where permitted. Make a day of it by having a campfire cookout with s’mores and hot cocoa in the parking lot. Be sure to check here to see if your local national forest location allows tree-cutting before heading out. 

Go on a Scavenger Hunt 

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Image by Erica Finstad

From finding a pinecone to a turkey blowup yard decoration, a holiday scavenger hunt can get the crew outside, maybe even on a trail. Scavenger hunts are great to encourage problem-solving skills and teamwork. You can focus on nature, the season, or the holiday. There are some great pre-made hunts online you can print out, or you can create your own. Either way, you are getting some sunshine and exercise while challenging your brain. 

Take a Hike 

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Image by Johner Images

Getting out for a post-meal stroll has numerous benefits. Walking after a meal helps aid in digestion, including reducing bloating. It also helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels while also burning calories. It can also be a mood booster and an escape from Grandpa’s jokes, the piles of dishes, or the in-laws’ political talk. Aim to head out between 60-90 minutes after a meal. Just a quick stroll around the neighborhood is all you need, but getting out for a hike in nature can give you more time to have some much needed distraction-free time with family and friends during the holiday rush. 

Opt Outside on Black Friday

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As an alternative to shopping on Black Friday, head outside for some fresh air, Vitamin D, and exercise. With the holiday madness, it is hard to find time for yourself, but companies and organizations including the National Park Service and REI campaign to help. State parks in Colorado created their take on it called Fresh Air Friday to encourage families to enjoy the outdoors the day after Thanksgiving, while state land in Washington is free through their Autumn Day program. Fitness gyms, yoga studios, and more have also jumped on the wagon to help people break away from technology, the mall, and the dishes the day after Thanksgiving. 

Trot into a Tradition 

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Image by JazzIRT

A yearly custom for many families, the first Turkey Trot was held in 1896 in Buffalo, New York with only six runners on the start line. Today, Turkey Trots can be found across the country, ranging from 5k-10k in distance. Before you feast, keep your family fitness routine by entering a trot on Thanksgiving morning or one held the weekend before or after. Find a race (in-person or virtual) near you by searching “turkey trot” and your desired location on runningintheusa.com or active.com

Volunteer Your Time

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Image by SDI Productions

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful. With this in mind, a way to be active this Thanksgiving is by volunteering your time to show gratitude. Opt to Act (a side project of Opt Outside) encourages people to spend the Friday after Thanksgiving cleaning parks and taking other actions to help make the world a better place. Deliver holiday cards, pies, or breads to neighbors by bike, scooter, or by walking. Help with a food drive, spending time unloading and loading canned goods. Grab some sidewalk chalk, write notes, and draw pictures of appreciation for all the things positive in your life. However you choose to show your thankfulness, do it in an active way. 

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