Give Thanks by Staying Active This Holiday

Published on November 21, 2014

Updated on February 13, 2018

Left: The author and her brother get ready for their annual family football game on Thanksgiving Day.


Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude. It seems counter-intuitive then, that as we give thanks for our blessings—our health, I hope, chief among them—that we do not make an effort to live healthfully on this day. In fact, most of us do quite the opposite, eating rich foods to the point of discomfort and moving little.

It’s not the only way! Eating healthy and staying active throughout the year are key factors in preventing cancer. In fact, new research shows that as much as one third of cancer deaths are linked to diet and physical activity. It’s certainly ok to indulge every now and then, but you can still make sure that your Thanksgiving meal includes plenty of vegetables, beans and whole grains.

You can also counteract a big meal with some extra activity early in the day, leaving plenty of time to cook and enjoy a leisurely meal with your loved ones. Here are just a few options to get moving on Thanksgiving Day:

Turkey Trot: Many cities host Thanksgiving Day races with course options ranging from 1-mile walks to 5Ks. Check online to find a Turkey Trot near you; then gather the whole family to participate in the race before you dig into that turkey! Getting moving early in the day will speed up your metabolism, burn calories and help you maintain a healthy weight through the holiday season. Don’t forget to drink lots of water before and after the race to stay hydrated—and sun protection is a must, even if it’s cloudy!

Family Football: This is my personal favorite Thanksgiving tradition. Get the younger kids involved and excited about the game by making signs to post around the yard or announcing the starting lineups. My family even has a trophy that the MVP on the winning team gets to keep for the year. Choose teams that promote fair match-ups based on age and athletic ability, and keep it safe with a game of two-hand touch that everyone can participate in. Hut, hut, hike!

Zumbathon: Check for Zumba or other special indoor fitness classes set for Thanksgiving morning. Since these are usually special classes, you often don’t need to be a member to participate. If it’s your first time, don’t worry about mastering the choreography exactly—the key is to get your heart rate up and keep moving. Be sure to sign up ahead of time; these classes can be in high demand and spaces fill up quickly.

Thanksgiving is about so much more than food. Let’s celebrate all that we are thankful for by being kind to our bodies and staying active.

How do you plan to get moving on Thanksgiving Day? Tweet us at @PreventCancer and let us know!

For more ideas on how to have a healthy Thanksgiving, check out our Thanksgiving board on Pinterest. For more information on eating healthy and staying active throughout the year, please visit

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