move those drumsticks

Recently, a friend said, “I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving because of all the stuff you get to eat that you don’t normally eat the rest of the year, like turkey with stuffing and sweet potatoes with marshmallows!” The good news is that one day of indulgence is not going to do you in physically. The bad news is that the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, published in January 2010 by Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, reports that each hour that one sits (watching television, for example) is associated with an 18 percent increase in heart disease-related death and an 11 percent increase in overall morbidity. And before you skinny people stop reading, the study also showed that it made no difference whether participants were overweight or not. So balance your gastronomic vacation with physical activity, both on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the holiday season.
Sara Hansen, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer at Positively Fit (, a gym in Jacksonville, says, “During the holiday season is one of the most important times to be active. This is the time of year when people are attending more parties, more family functions and eating more than usual compared to the rest of the year. It is a very hectic time of the year, so not only will staying active help to keep off the holiday weight gain, but [it will] also be a great stress reliever.”
Engaging in physical activity during the holidays is easy, in spite of all the distractions. Yes, you have a house full of guests. Perfect! Tell everyone that you’d like to be as active as possible during their visit. Verbalizing a goal makes it more real to the goal setter, and telling others about it can be a motivator. That is what’s behind the community approach adopted by many weight loss and fitness programs. Plus, having more people around means you are more likely to find someone who is willing to be active with you. “Get the whole family involved in your activities,” Hansen says. “This time of year revolves around spending quality time together, and what better way than to do something that benefits everybody.”
Even with both young and old in the house (and so many great football games on TV), there are plenty of activities one can do to get the whole family moving. During football game commercials, do some walking and running in place. Swing your arms into a “hug yourself” position, alternating which arm is on top. These kinds of “ballistic” movements will really get your blood flowing. Do some resistance training in the form of push-ups, squats or curling your little nephew. Get the kids involved with some football-style drills. Take them outside and leap through an imaginary tire course, do sprints and jumping jacks, and then throw the football with them. Hansen says, “There are many great physical activities that people can do this time of year to stay active. [It’s] even just as simple as getting outside and walking briskly for 20 to 30 minutes.” Make it a new family tradition: Instead of crashing out on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner, go for a family walk. One Jacksonville family’s Thanksgiving tradition is to have their turkey dinner as a late lunch and to take a long walk on the beach together afterward. Another Mandarin family even has a Thanksgiving tradition of playing Twister together. However, they advise waiting an hour or so after dinner to do it!
Hansen says, “I personally stay very active throughout the holidays. It can be a very hectic time of year, so exercise is a great way to get your mind off the hustle and bustle of the season. I still surf throughout the holidays… I also get my resistance training in three days a week and also walk quite a bit. I love doing anything outdoors, especially with a chill in the air. I also try to take my dog outside for long walks, to the dog park, or skateboarding while she runs.” She makes another good point there. Often, we’re so busy during the holidays that our pets get ignored. But your dog’s exercise needs can be a great “excuse” to get some exercise of your own!
If you have a specific fitness goal, Hansen recommends starting now, before you get too busy. “It’s a lot easier to get into a routine before we’re right in the middle of the holiday season. The hardest part is getting started, but I promise you that when you get through your first week, make it a routine, and start seeing results, you can’t wait till your next workout!” For those with definitive goals who need a lot of structure, you might check out Beachbody® products ( You may have seen their infomercials on TV for videos like P90X® or Hip Hop Abs®. Positively Fit is a Beachbody distribution partner, and Hansen says, “The Beachbody programs and workouts are great … [and] the website allows us to be one of the only gyms in Jacksonville that offer this online support system and a “gym without walls” for free!” For runners, keep an eye out for events that will get you moving. The 31st annual Native Sun Mandarin Run will be held on Saturday, November 13. There will also be a Fun Run for Kids and a post-race brunch. Register online at (and check out their great race calendar) or by calling 731-3676.
Finally, with all that there is to do this time of year, with all the extra friends and family around requiring your attention, sometimes it’s good to just get away from it all. Exercise provides the perfect opportunity (or excuse, if you need one). Take a walk, run or bike ride by yourself. Go to one of Jacksonville’s many parks with a fitness trail and complete the course ( Promise yourself a solo hour at the gym at least three times a week. “The most important part during this holiday season is convincing yourself that you need this for you as much as everyone else needs you during the holidays,” Hansen says. “Make it a point to make time for you and give yourself the gift of increased energy, an increase in endorphins that will relieve stress and lift your mood, and a healthier and fit you.”