My challenge for you today is to get some exercise before you sit down to enjoy the many tastes of Thanksgiving dinner. I read somewhere that the average Thanksgiving meal is between 2,000 and 4,500 calories (without the booze!). Obviously no one is required to “eat themself into an oblivion” (in the words of my dad - and his dad, Grampie Ed). But realistically, unless you are planning on running a marathon today, you will not burn off the meal no matter how much exercise you get. But I don’t really think about it that way anyway.
I have always noticed a relationship between exercise and my enjoyment of a good meal. For some reason food just tastes better after a workout, and any guilt you may feel for indulging in that slice of pumpkin apple pie melts away.
Exercise not only increases your heart rate and allows you to burn calories and fat, but it is also a mood enhancer. When you exercise, endorphin and serotonin levels in your brain increase. Endorphins are mood-regulating chemicals that reduce pain and stress and can induce euphoria (also known as “runner’s high”; learn more about it in this outstanding book written by my brother and sis!). Serotonin is another brain chemical that is linked to mood. For the brain to have a stabilized mood, serotonin must be present. Depression is often linked to a lack of serotonin in the brain.
I prefer to exercise outside, especially in the winter! The cold Minnesota air (which is where I usually am for Thanksgiving) is refreshing and the combination of snow and sunshine is stunningly beautiful. There is a reason Ed and I decided to get married in Minnesota in January! But inside works too. Run in your city’s annual Turkey Trot. Go for a family walk. Many gyms hold one or two morning yoga classes on Thanksgiving for people like you who are not willing to dismiss exercise just because it’s a holiday. If you have snow, take your kids sledding. If you’re in Florida, go for a walk on the beach.
This year the LaFaves are going to play a game of touch football on my Nana’s front lawn overlooking the beautiful, frozen Lake Carlos. Huge improvement from 15 years ago when my dad, whistle in hand, had my cousins and me running laps in the backyard for our Thanksgiving Day exercise (post-meal!).