2016-11-22 / Sports

Pre-Thanksgiving pep talk

Assistant Sports Editor

The modern American Thanksgiving revolves around food, family and friends. More importantly, the spirit of the holiday is about being thankful for gifts we don’t count often enough and fostering inclusiveness and hospitality.

In the more literal sense, Thanksgiving often develops into an impossible mountain of food, followed by more food, and possibly some good, old-fashioned television watching of a parade or football game, altogether with a large group of your nearest and dearest.

As comfortable and warm as that scenario is, in the spirit of the holiday, shouldn’t we be thankful for our relatives’ good health, bundle them up, and frog-march all but the most frail outside for a family walk before dessert?

Some families play a Thanksgiving football game, an even more active holiday tradition, but if you are working with a non-football playing crowd, most groups are able to participate in a walk together to help break up the food-coma. Moreover, a walk will deter the guest(s) who traditionally takes ‘accidental’ naps in front of the television set immediately following dinner.

Family walks aren’t just to make sure everyone stays awake after turkey, we all know the health benefits of walking are numerous and especially important on a day with such an unusually large meal.

The Calorie Count Council organization conducted a study to calculate the amount of calories in the average American Thanksgiving meal: 3,150 calories in the meal alone-- without pre-meal snacks or non-tea beverages. The average calorie count for pre-meal appetizers and beverages was 1,500 calories, combined for a total of 4,650 calories in one event.

Let’s face it, no single reasonable post-meal exercise activity is going to erase a meal that size. Taking the Thanksgiving gang out for a post-meal walk is helpful, but the real benefits are fostering good health habits to younger members of the family and to include elder family members in mild, healthy group activities.

It is important to encourage all family members to be active, regardless of age (but within their limits). After the age of 25, only 26 percent of people say they have played a sport in the past year, and participation decreases with age, according to a 2015 NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll.

The poll included individual or low-impact sports such as walking, fishing and bowling. Walking was listed as the fourth most popular sports activity among men age 65 and older, and the most popular sports activity among women age 65 and up, making it the most accessible activity for a diverse Thanksgiving crowd.

Thanksgiving also serves as the kick-off for the busy holiday season, when health routines are easy to break with sugar cookies and visions of sugar plums. By encouraging a healthy routine at Thanksgiving, you may be more likely to maintain your own goals and influence friends and relatives to practice healthier habits through New Years and beyond.

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