Thanksgiving often centers on two things: eating and watching football!
There are plenty of family traditions around these two activities and, for the meal itself, lots of advice on how to cook healthy dishes and avoid overeating. But for Cheshire County families who want to make their holidays even healthier, heading outside and taking a group walk may the touchdown pass of Thanksgiving traditions.
Walking, in general, is one of the most accessible healthy activities available to us. Free, low-risk, and requiring not much more than sturdy shoes, walking offers a host of health benefits.
Walking burns calories. Walking just one mile burns approximately 100 calories, depending on your size, age, and sex. In fact, walking burns nearly as many calories as running! This is especially helpful after a large Thanksgiving meal, which can run from 1.600 to 3,000 calories per plate. (There’s a reason you feel stuffed as a turkey at the end of the meal. That’s a lot of calories!)
Walking improves mood. It’s not unusual for Thanksgiving afternoons to have their fair share of ill tempers. Overeating, extended family time, and the pressure of producing a big meal can easily put family members at odds with each other. Walking is proven to make your brain more sensitive to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which ease the feeling of depression. They also stimulate the release of endorphins, known as the “happy hormone.”
Walking restores a feeling of family togetherness. A 2018 study found that parent-child bonds improve and family members get along better when they spend time in nature—even as little as 20 minutes in a nearby park.
Walking eases heartburn. Moving your body helps with digestion, which means a lower chance of stomach acid backing up into your esophagus. You might feel like lying down and taking a nap will help, but going for a walk is a much quicker path to less heartburn.
Walking regulates blood sugar. One study found that a post-meal walk as short as 15 minutes helped avoid blood sugar spikes for several hours afterward. This can mean fewer unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms later in the day. Thanksgiving meals tend to be high on sweet foods, from marshmallows in the sweet potatoes to big slices of apple pie. Cranberry sauce and bread can also contribute to blood sugar spikes.
Living in the rural beauty of Cheshire County, it’s particularly easy for families to simply step outside and walk in their neighborhoods, or along their country roads. If you’d prefer not to walk on the road, here are seven easy walks to take, no cars in view.
- “Walking to Health,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9181668/;
- “The importance of walking to public health,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18562968;
- “Comparison of energy expenditure to walk or run a mile in adult normal weight and overweight men and women,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20613650;
- “The Effects of the Natural Environment on Attention and Family Cohesion: An Experimental Study,” https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.27.2.0093?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents;
- “Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23630504;
- “Three 15-min Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance,” https://www.today.com/series/one-small-thing/thanksgiving-family-tension-walking-together-outside-can-help-t119155;
- “Walking and chewing reduce postprandial acid reflux,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11148431