Many Americans gain weight during the holiday season.

During this holiday season, try focusing on fun instead of food.

Research shows that most of the weight Americans gain in one year’s time occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That same research also shows that we do not lose that weight when the holidays are over according to David Burton, civic communication specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“I’m a living example of this weight gain trend, but I’m making changes,” Burton said. “If we can avoid holiday weight gain, we will be taking positive steps to prevent obesity and prevent or delay the development of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health problems.”

The holidays are a time when more food is consumed than normal. There are parties to attend, dinners at the office and church and more family gatherings. Food is the centerpiece for a majority of those events. The challenge is to make another activity the priority during the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving.

THANKSGIVING CALORIES

The average American consumes a whopping 4,500 calories from Thanksgiving dinner and snacks, according to the Calorie Counting Council. That is nearly twice the amount needed for daily calorie consumption.

That piece of apple pie is 411 calories and would require a 3.1 mile run to burn it off.

Before you reach for the extra buttered roll, remember it is 210 calories, and you will need 20 minutes of flag football to burn those calories off.

One-half cup of stuffing is 180 calories and it will take ten minutes of running to burn it off. A two-ounce piece of corn bread is 160 calories and will require 15 laps of swimming.

One-half cup of green bean casserole is 70 calories but 14 minutes of dancing can burn that off. Gravy is 45 calories for one-quarter cup and 50 burpees will burn off those calories.

ACTIVITY IDEAS

For family fun ways to burn calories, plan a family walk in the afternoon or a family game of touch football, kickball or baseball outside.

It can also be fun to plan indoor or outdoor activities that will get the family off the couch and on their feet. For example, organize a scavenger hunt, or create an obstacle course for all to enjoy.

Humans can gain health benefits by getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week and anaerobic exercise (strength training) two to three days per week.

Aerobic exercise can be playing actively with the children, raking leaves and walking up stairs in ten-minute bouts. Regular physical activity helps with weight control by helping to burn excess calories that would normally be stored as fat.

“You may even start the day with exercise-before the big meal,” Burton said. “You could exercise 30 minutes on the treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical, for example, and then wind down the day with a walk, bike ride, or outdoor game with the family.”

For more information, call the MU Extensi

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