8 Creative Non-Food Ways to Connect With Loved Ones This Thanksgiving

Lauren Krouse
by Lauren Krouse
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8 Creative Non-Food Ways to Connect With Loved Ones This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving’s a wonderful time to connect with family and friends, enjoy your favorite recipes, and start new traditions. If you’ve been working hard to get in shape this year, the holiday weekend also provides a great opportunity to share your active lifestyle with your loved ones.
But it’s difficult to disrupt the desire to graze or sit around all day with a trip to the gym or a jog around the block. So, get creative. Here are eight non-food ways to connect with your people and burn calories on turkey day.


Everyone loves field day, especially if you’ve got a particularly competitive family. Ignite rivalries and get your heart rate up with a set of active games and challenges before you dig in for dinner. Think: obstacle courses, balancing games, egg-and-spoon relay races, even musical chairs or tug-of-war. “It can be literally anything that gets people moving and enjoying themselves, so feel free to adapt activities to your own family’s needs,” says Alex Parry, a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach.


‘Tis the season for touch football — and for good reason: “Sports are one of the best ways to get extra activity and movement in, and friendly competition can be a great way for a family to bond and learn to work together,” says TJ Mentus, a certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews. Head for your local park or backyard and choose a sport that’s accessible for everyone who wants to join. A few to consider that only require a couple of supplies? Basketball, slow-pitch softball, soccer, wiffle ball, kickball, volleyball or badminton.


Why not add a little movement to your gratitude practice? To do this, host a group yoga session either in-person (look up events in your area!) or online (YouTube and many apps have many free classes available with trained yogis), says Monica Straith, a certified personal trainer. With each breath in (at least for the first few breaths of each pose), think of something you’re thankful for. With each breath out, release any negative energy. And at the end of the session, take time to reflect on all of your blessings, filling yourself with positive energy.


Connect with nature, breathe easier, and enjoy crisp fall weather by taking a hike with family and friends. “You can choose flat terrain for a leisurely stroll or find a mountain to hike up for a bigger calorie burn,” says Jody Braverman, a certified personal trainer. To make it more of a special tradition, consider choosing a hike with memorable features like a panoramic view or waterfalls. Another fun touch: “Last person down the hill has to clean up after Thanksgiving dinner,” says Braverman. For inspiration, check out these family-friendly and dog-friendly hiking spots.


Sure, it’s a little early for ice skating season, but that could be to your benefit: There’s more space for you and your people to enjoy the rink! “Whether outdoors or in, one of my favorite things to do around the holidays is to go ice skating,” says Braverman. “For a few bucks, you can rent a pair of skates and get a good lower-body workout. You’ll also work your core muscles laughing at your friends and family trying to stay upright on the ice.”


Something you might not know if you’re not a regular gym-goer? “Many gyms and communities host free Thanksgiving workouts in exchange for a food donation,” says Carrie Hall, a certified personal trainer. You can give back and get a free sweat session in one stop. To find out what your options are for group fitness classes, check out your area’s events site or call your local gym.

CLICK TO TWEET THIS ARTICLE > Move more this Thanksgiving with these family-friendly activities via @myfitnesspal #MyFitnessPal


For an activity the kids will love, plan a turkey day-themed scavenger hunt. “You can hide several paper turkeys around the house and have everyone look for them with a prize at the end for the winner,” says John Gardner, a certified personal trainer and online fitness coach. “To make it extra active, add a small fitness routine to the back of each turkey such as 10 jumping jacks or 10 squats.”


For a tradition that could help keep you active in the weeks and months leading up to Thanksgiving, consider signing up for a turkey trot. “These are often for all ages and all activity levels with distances ranging from toddler dashes to 10Ks,” says Hall. Pro tip: “Make sure to pre-register to get any Thanksgiving swag.” To prepare for the big day or keep it up long after the holidays, join a walking or running group.


Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be all about food. To up your step countward off holiday weight gain, and spend quality time together, start a new family tradition to move more together.
Ready to take the next step? Unlock MyFitnessPal Premium to access custom goal settings, quick-log recipes, and guided plans from a registered dietitian. Premium users are 65% more likely to reach their weight loss goals!

About the Author

Lauren Krouse
Lauren Krouse

Lauren Krouse is a freelance writer who covers health, domestic violence, and self-advocacy. Her work appears in Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Prevention, Self, HuffPost, and elsewhere. When she’s not writing, you can find her trying to meditate more, weightlifting, or walking in the woods with her partner and black lab.


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