You could have your Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings – the turkey, sweet potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce – but keep in mind that a big meal could weigh in at about 4,500 calories. That’s equivalent to about eight Big Macs.
The sleepiness or “turkey coma” (as some people call it) induced by overindulging is associated with tryptophan, an amino acid in turkey that is a natural sedative. Nutritionists and exercise physiologists recommend that people who tend to eat large Thanksgiving dinners prepare for their feast by increasing their physical activity days, and perhaps weeks, ahead of time, also on the big day.
Here are some outdoor activities for blunting the impact of Thanksgiving calories:
- Take a hike. Literally. Go for a long walk in your neighborhood or a local scenic area, or head to a nearby state park, nature preserve or walking trail, such as a designated “rail trail” along old abandoned railroad tracks. To find the nearest “rail trail” check out the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, which has a searchable database of thousands of rail trails across the country. For each trail, the site lists the length, type of terrain, surface (gravel, crushed stone or asphalt) and suitable activities, from cycling and walking to in-line skating.
- Play a “flag football” game. Thanksgiving activities often include watching a parade or a football game on TV. Consider adding a no bodily contact “flag football” game in your yard. Haven’t got a yard? Perhaps a quiet, nearby street will work. Gather as many kids you can and make sure that each one has a chance to handle the football. A competitive but friendly game of “flag football” helps teach sportsmanship.
- Rake in a big pile of leaves. Recruit your Thanksgiving revelers early in the day, before your big dinner, to help you make a game out of raking leaves. Ask several of them to bring rakes, or borrow extra rakes from your neighbors. The game can entail jumping into some big piles of leaves. Who doesn’t like to do that? Award prizes to the teams that rake the fastest, or bag the leaves the fastest, or build the highest pile. You’d be surprised how a small prize such as a gift card can be an incentive. In addition, everyone will burn calories.
- Enjoy a “Turkey Trot” race. Thanksgiving celebrations in parts of the country feature a fun run or footrace, known as a Thanksgiving Day “Turkey Trot.” They’re often of a limited distance, such as 5K or 10K, and hosted by charitable organizations. You can sign-up for a “Turkey Trot” in your area, if available, or start one yourself. It’s a healthy activity that allows you to take in the benefits of exercise – and give something back.
Physical activity can boost your endorphins and help you to temper over-indulgence throughout the holiday season ahead.