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Thanksgiving Family Fitness Ideas

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For most families on Thanksgiving, physical activity takes a back seat to turkey and stuffing and pie. While everyone is busy cooking and eating, and cleaning up from cooking and eating, moving around can be a welcome break and another great way to spend time as a family.

happy child playing pilot aviator and dreams outdoors in autumn

The traditional Thanksgiving go-to when it comes to outdoor play is football. It’s hard to argue that splitting up the extended family into a giant game of two-touch is a great time.   However, if the weather or space doesn’t support the pigskin tradition, there are lots of other options.

Obstacle Courses

Everyone loves obstacles courses. They’re fun to do and sometimes the best part is just putting them together. With the current craze of American Ninja Warrior and other obstacle events, kids love getting outside and running around with a goal and purpose.

Letting the kids design the course is a great way to spark their creativity. You can even have them draw it out on paper before they set it up outdoors.

While this may seem like a complicated and messy undertaking, it doesn’t have to be. Using equipment as simple as cones is all it takes. There are endless ways you can set up fun and safe courses, including a seasonal kicker of a pile of leaves as the finish line.

One of the downsides to any active activity for family events is that differences in age and ability can cause siblings to fight or feel left out. When it comes to obstacle courses, if the stated goal is to beat your own time, it’ll erase any advantages and have the kids rooting for each other rather than arguing.

Scavenger Hunts

Want to keep up with the team theme of football without the tackling? Scavenger hunts are an easy way to get kids (and adults) working and playing together.   They can be outdoors if the space is available or indoors if it’s cold.

You can follow the traditional format of a scavenger hunt. Having the two teams find different items in a set amount of time normally. Try making the list full of seasonal things that can be found in the home. I.e. mini pumpkins, or thanksgiving decorations could make it even more fun.

If you’re looking for a more active scavenger hunt, add ‘action items’ or exercises the teams have to complete off their list. An example of this is each team has to do a combined total of 50 push-ups (Dad does 40, kids do 5 each) or everyone has to run a loop around the outside of the house five times.

Even better, use a combination of the traditional scavenger hunt with the ‘action items’ so the participants are using their brains and bodies.


You may not think yoga goes well with Thanksgiving, but it does! First, it can be done indoors or outside, so no matter the weather, it’s guaranteed to work.  Second, there’s no set time it has to last, so whether you have ten minutes or an hour, you can definitely fit it into your busiest Thursday of the year. Third, it’s something the entire family can do together regardless of age or skill level.

On top of all those reasons, Thanksgiving can be a physically demanding and stressful holiday. Getting everyone together to calm down, breathe, and move might be the perfect way to keep any aches or grumpiness away from everyone in the house.

Thanksgiving will always be about family, food, and football. But I know there are some looking for different ways to be active this year. There are so many options, including tons in addition to the examples given.  Even if football remains a staple of your holiday, mixing in a few new activities might be a welcome twist. No matter which option you choose, being active while spending time with family is always a winning combination.

Steve Ettinger


Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

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