You and your family have eaten all of the turkey and the sides, watched hours of football, and now you feel like you can’t move a muscle. Holidays are usually a time to indulge ourselves with delicious foods that we only have once a year, but it’s important to fight the tryptophan, an amino acid in turkeys often associated with sleepiness, and keep your family moving.

“The most important thing to do is plan your physical activity out,” says Children’s National Health System’s sports medicine pediatrician Nailah Coleman, MD.

Here are some tips on how to plan a family activity:

  • Have several options available based on energy level and age appropriateness. For example, a 7 or 8 year old cannot weight lift or participate in a 5-mile jog, but he could go for a hike or a 1-mile jog.
  • Set a time frame for the activity.
  • Follow everyone’s mood. If the family seems ready to go right after a heavy meal, it’s time to seize the day and play!

According the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend an average of nearly three hours a day watching television and only half of children and teens get regular exercise. It’s recommended that kids get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day, 30 minutes for adults, so working out as a family is beneficial for parents too.

“This time of year is a great time to play football with the kids before you watch the game together on TV,” says Dr. Coleman. “You can also make a game of watching TV by asking everyone to do their own ‘touchdown dance’ with each touchdown scored or dance for each first down, if it’s a low-scoring game.”

Family-friendly activities

The AAP lists several suggestions for active family activities, including:

  • Walk around the block
  • Playing interactive video games
  • Mall walking
  • Play tag in the front yard
  • Buy a kite, put it together as a family activity, and fly it in the park. While you hold onto the kite string, let your child run with the kite until the wind catches it and sends it aloft.
  • Take a family bike ride
  • Wax the car as a family activity
  • Have a family dance party
  • During the holiday season, take a family walk in the evening and enjoy the holiday lights on the homes in the neighborhood

“The goal should be to have fun and then kids will be willing to do it. If they’re having fun, they’ll probably do it longer than the recommended amount of time,” Dr. Coleman says.


Nailah Coleman Nailah Coleman, MD, FAAP, is a sports medicine pediatrician in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. She is board certified in both pediatrics and sports medicine. During her training, she worked in four different hospital environments and had the opportunity to see children at different life stages and assess their growth and wellness.

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