Just how many calories is the average Thanksgiving Day feast? According to the Calorie Control Council, a typical holiday dinner alone can be 3,000 calories. In addition, we’re likely to gobble up another 1,500 calories when we include appetizers and drinks. At a grand total of 4,500 calories, this is more than double what’s needed for many moderately active adults age 30-60.

What can we do about holiday eating habits?

If you are going to skip Black Friday shopping and go for a hike, a one hour hike typically burns 370 calories. To burn off our 4,500 calorie intake from the day before, plan on a twelve hour hike. This should allow you to summit Camel’s Hump three times. How about a fun Turkey Trot? Well, it would be best to look for a 38-mile “fun” run to ensure you can take care of those pesky calories.

It’s pretty clear that burning off all of your Thanksgiving calories would be a daunting task. There are, however, easier solutions that still allow you to enjoy your holiday meal.

Monitor your calories and plan ahead

It is always best to start by monitoring calories and ensuring that we are making smart food choices. But also consider how you might increase your physical activity leading up to and following the holiday season to both prepare and combat the possible weight gain the holidays can bring.

Make simple lifestyle changes

Simple lifestyle changes, such as parking further from the entrance of a store, taking the stairs versus the elevator, or walking to a destination rather than driving, all increase our total calorie expenditure. For more intentional exercise options, engaging in weight lifting or aerobics at the gym can burn 440-480 calories per hour.

Consistent exercise of approximately one hour a day, 3-4 days a week leading up to and following the holiday season will help fight weight gain for those of us who choose to do a little feasting.

What if I don’t have time for physical activity?

Certainly, time can be a limiting factor to being physically active. Start by figuring out how you can schedule regular exercise sessions into your busy week. You’re not alone if you might need a little boost. This may come from finding a family member or friend with whom you can walk or work out. Also, if you can, consider using a personal trainer – one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable to exercising. A trainer will help you set a series of small, achievable goals and guide you through a fitness routine that ensures you spend your limited time on the proper types of exercise.

This holiday season, don’t let the fear of weight gain keep you from enjoying your favorite foods – in moderation of course. Find small ways to increase your physical activity and create a regular exercise routine in advance. Partner with a friend, solicit the help of a personal trainer, and most importantly, stay consistent with your exercise routine to ensure you can enjoy the holiday season in the best possible health.

Helpful Resources

Ryan Grey is Assistant Director of Fitness at the Greater Burlington YMCA. He holds a BS in Exercise Science from the University of Vermont and is a certified personal trainer. To learn more about fitness, including personal training, at the YMCA, contact Ryan at rgrey@gbymca.org or call 802-652-8183.

Subscribe to Our Blog