You Don't Have to Exercise on Thanksgiving

The New York Times says you should goad your family into “stealth high-intensity-interval family fun.” I say: Why? And: No.

by Hannah Smothers
Nov 25 2019, 5:18pm

Django via Getty

While some may look forward to Thanksgiving as a nice day to eat special foods, spend time with friends and/or family, or simply take a day off work, others are seemingly preparing for it like it’s a grueling battle. The body vs. a table of food; #goals vs. candied yams. The zone of Thanksgiving-related exercise content is flooded and deranged: Googling “Thanksgiving exercise” yields pages of results, ranging from special tips on “how to” work out on this one Thursday in November to illustrated charts that convert each item on the table to units of exercise (one cornbread = 15 laps in the pool, etc.).

Over the weekend, the New York Times weighed in with some particularly demented advice: Attempt to passive-aggressively trick your kind, well-meaning family members to work out with you, via a series of “games” that are actually, stealthily “exercise.” A string of experts gave tips such as, “Don’t say, ‘Hey, everybody, let’s exercise,’ Say, ‘Hey, who wants to play tag?’”, and “See who can rake a pile of leaves the fastest.” The expert refers to this as “high-intensity-interval family fun,” which has real doomsday vibes about it… The family who does this stuff on Thanksgiving will be the same family doing chin-ups as the combination tsunami-wildfire consumes the last remaining pieces of land.

The idea is that by convincing your otherwise-sedentary and possibly drunk family members to do inchworms with you across the lawn, you might inspire some non-exercisers to exercise. First, this is simply not how habit-forming works. But also, it’s an absolutely demonic thing to suggest on this day of rest, as if this is your opportunity to effect change on family members whose lifestyles you don’t approve of. Tensions on Thanksgiving are already high enough for most families with their respective shares of drama. The last thing your harmonious, “no one bring up Uncle Rick’s politics” day needs is some passive aggressive asshole foisting jump ropes on everyone, under the guise of “family fun!!!!” Also... There is plenty of naturally occurring exercise on Thanksgiving, already. Cooking?? That's sports. Sprinting toward the sweet potatoes? Also sports. Tolerating Aunt Carol's myriad ways of asking when you'll start seeing "someone serious?" Basically the Olympics!!!!

Scientifically speaking, Thanksgiving is one day. Even if that day is a marathon of eating, it isn’t going to thwart your overall fitness, nor is it going to make or break your family’s health. If you wish to support them, you’d have much more success providing regular support of a healthier lifestyle, rather than making everyone do kettlebell swings with the gravy tureen.

If you *must* work out, it’s possible and fine to do so. A bit of useful advice the same New York Times story offers is to get your exercise in early, before the day gets going. This is a nice thing to do, especially if you’re someone who needs 20 minutes of solitude before rocketing into a day of socializing in confined quarters. But especially for the one family member who might be tempted to make today the day they try to force everyone else to be healthier, like them: consider giving it a rest.

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