Healthy Events for Body and Soul across the Metroplex this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is known for bringing families and friends together for a day of enjoying each other’s company and the blessings we have in our lives, and it’s also known for its usually rich feast. Drinks, desserts, appetizers and the main course can all add up to a total calorie count within the ballpark of 4,500 and 229 grams of fat per person, according to the Calorie Control Council.

We’ve previously highlighted healthier swaps you can make for your Thanksgiving meal to help curb calories and fat. Now, we want to shed light on healthy activities that you can do with your loved ones this holiday season to not only benefit your body but also your soul.

Healthy Events for the Body

There are various “Turkey Trot” races in cities across the DFW metroplex, such as Arlington, Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, Frisco, Plano, Sachse and Wylie. Distances vary per race and many cities hold multiple races before, during and after Thanksgiving, so there is bound to be an event the whole gang can enjoy!

You can visit DFW Races or Run Project for a list of upcoming races, their start times and lengths, along with links to register. You can also visit your city’s local government website or enter “Thanksgiving Day races near me” in your browser to find an event.

Whether you opt for a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, full-marathon or even just a mile, getting active has a ton of benefits for your body. Walking briskly for up to 30 minutes each day can help prevent and control high blood pressure that can cause strokes — reducing your risk by up to 27 percent. Every half hour you walk at a brisk pace also reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. Walking can also give you an energy boost by increasing circulation and oxygen supplied to your body’s cells!

If a brisk walk — a pace at which you can still talk but not sing — seems a little slow, the benefits only increase with the speed at which you move. And if you think you’ve “aged out” of runs, think again! If it’s been a while since you have laced up those running shoes or you have a special health condition, it’s always best to consult with your physician or nurse prior to race day.

If joining a fun-run or walk doesn’t appeal to you, a pick-up game of basketball, soccer or even just tossing a baseball around has health benefits. More of a dancer? Dancing has been shown to burn 396 calories, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Even getting the family together for a yoga or Zumba class can give everyone a fun activity to do together while still focusing on health. To find out how many calories you can burn doing your favorite activity, give ACE’s Physical Activity Calorie Counter a try.

Healthy Events for the Mind

It’s great to find ways to get active for a healthier body, but don’t forget events that benefit your mind and soul. The holiday season is ripe with opportunities to give back to the community, something Debra Iversen, the director of behavioral health at Texas Health Seay Behavioral Health Center, says not only benefits recipients but health and happiness of givers as well.

“Giving makes us feel happy. These good feelings are reflected in our biology,” she says. “One study supported by the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, creating a ‘warm glow’ effect. Giving, an altruistic behavior, also releases endorphins in the brain. Some scientists refer to this as the ‘helper’s high.’”

Iversen notes that multiple studies have shown that giving has a positive impact on health, even among the sick and elderly. A study at the University of Michigan shows that individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a 5-year period than those who did not.

Because stress is reduced by helping others, it may be one reason why giving has such a high impact on physical and mental health. In a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, showing a direct physiological benefit for those who give of themselves.

In addition to the physical benefits, giving can also give one a sense of purpose, which has been shown by Blue Zones researchers to aid in longevity. The Blue Zones Project is a look at nine concepts that are common among people that live to be at least 100 years of age.

“Giving promotes cooperation and social connections which are vital to good mental and physical health,” Iversen notes. “These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation further strengthening our ties to others. Giving also evokes a sense of gratitude. Research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. Expressing gratitude to a close friend or partner, in turn, strengthens our sense of connection to that person.”

To find ways to give back to your community this holiday season (and beyond!), websites such as Volunteer Match can help connect you with nearby opportunities. Local organizations like the North Texas Food Bank, The Salvation Army, The Dallas Life Foundation, SoupMobile and Mission Arlington offer meals and or assistance to the less fortunate in our community every Thanksgiving.

If you’re unable to physically volunteer or give your time, many charities also accept donations, whether it be food, clothing, toiletries or money. And remember, you can even sign up to be a volunteer at the many events listed above if you’re unable to participate in the race!

If you choose to volunteer this year, Iversen says it may be the best thing you can do for yourself and others this season.

“Volunteering, giving gifts or donating to your favorite charity this season may just bring you a big dose of happiness and satisfaction!”

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