A Case for a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot

A midday stroll is my family’s favorite Turkey Day tradition. Here’s why.

Family walking on an autumn day
Photo: Zukovic/Getty

Once the Thanksgiving turkey is in the oven, my family heads out. That's the cue for our turkey trot. Like clockwork, everyone presses pause on their conversations and laces up the sneakers we all brought in anticipation for our afternoon excursion. It's been that way as long as I can remember and even after so many years, our turkey trot, the long walk we take around the neighborhood, is my favorite Thanksgiving tradition.

We stroll swiftly around the host's stomping grounds, pointing out the same benchmarks as we did the year before and the year before that, and chit-chatting with those we fall into step with. It's certainly no race, but how fast you walk determines your position in the group. Speed up to talk to the fittest cousins who journey on with ease and don't even realize how quickly they're hiking, or slow down to converse with the grandparents merrily taking their sweet time.

That's not the case at every turkey trot, though; some really are races. Municipalities across the country organize turkey-themed footraces for Thanksgiving day. You might even see runners costumed in festive turkey ensembles, feathers and all. While our trek is leisurely and 'homemade,' rather than formally organized, it's still great exercise on a day centered around indulging in a celebratory feast.

But that's not why we do it. Here's a few reasons why my family is faithful to the turkey trot and why yours should be too.

Give the Host a Break

Get the poor hostess out of the kitchen! We all know that the Thanksgiving hostess is the real hero of the holiday, making the whole day possible, often starting preparations weeks in advance. She deserves a break but may not take it upon herself to put cooking on hold for a breather, so it's up to the rest of the family to enforce that much needed time-out by taking a walk outdoors.

Give the Turkey Space to Cook

Waiting for the Thanksgiving bird to cook is like watching paint dry. There's no use standing around checking the oven timer and anticipating tender turkey dinner. Instead, getting out of the house can act dually as a distraction and a way to spend productive quality time. The main course will be ready before you know it.

Get Some Fresh Air

We love gathering the whole crew for Thanksgiving but goodness gracious, the house can get hot. Especially for big, Southern families, having so many people under one roof—not to mention the oven running all day long—can lead to some serious overheating. Fight the heat by taking a jaunt in the crisp, autumn air.

Make Room for More Food

Thanksgiving is an all-day affair in my household, and there's no shortage of food. From a hearty holiday brunch to snacks, appetizers, the show-stopping feast, and seasonal desserts, the food flows all day long. It's hard not to fill up before the turkey is even served, especially when the day is spent lounging around with very little physical activity, catching up with loved ones, and watching a parade and football. The turkey trot is a strategic bit of exercise: A little movement to get digestion to make way for even more delicious Thanksgiving foods.

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