Juno hikes up wooden stairs in the woods on Dorr Mountain on Nov. 9, in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

For many people, it’s tradition to venture outside and exercise sometime during Thanksgiving day. Some do it before the big meal, and some do it after.

It makes sense. You’re either working up an appetite by burning calories, or you’re walking off the feast. Or maybe you’re just escaping your relatives.

Research studies from around the world have shown that walking after eating can help speed up digestion. I looked it up. How else do you think I learned the word “postprandial”?

One study, conducted in 2008 in Germany, found that walking after a meal accelerated digestion significantly, while drinking alcohol or coffee did not. (I’m sure one can find another excuse to enjoy one of those beverages, though.)

No one likes that yucky, too-full feeling you get after stuffing yourself with — well — stuffing. Yet, every Thanksgiving, I throw caution to the wind. I can’t help myself. I love everything about the meal. I pile it onto my plate, then I drown it in gravy.

One roll? Nah. It’s Thanksgiving. I’ll have two.

Bare branches reflect in a pond near Sieur de Monts Spring on Nov. 9, in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

It doesn’t help that my extended family goes overboard with the cooking. Do we need to have sweet potato, squash and turnip on the table? No. But I’ll try all three. I’ve forgotten which mashed, orange foodstuff I like best.

I inevitably eat to the point of discomfort. Then I wonder how long it will take my body to make room for pumpkin pie.

During a large meal, my sister and I do this bit where we shake up and down, like we’re sitting on a rickety roller coaster. We call it, “shaking it down.” In theory, we’re making more room. However, I’ve no scientific studies to back up that method of speeding up digestion. You should probably stick to walking.

If you’re hosting dinner for family or friends, it may make sense just to go for a walk in your neighborhood. But if you have more freedom, you could travel a short distance to a local preserve or park.

A trail travels along a pond known as The Tarn on Nov. 9, in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

In Bangor alone, there are excellent walking trails at the Bangor City Forest, Walden-Parke Preserve, Central Penjajawoc Preserve, Essex Woods, Prentiss Woods and several other locations. Public walking trails also trace the banks of the Penobscot River and Kenduskeag Stream.

While walking outdoors during Thanksgiving, keep in mind that it’s deer hunting season in Maine. For many people, it’s a tradition to hunt on the holiday. So, depending on the property, you may be sharing the wilderness with hunters. For safety, wear plenty of blaze orange and other bright colors, which will increase your visibility.

If walking doesn’t sound entertaining enough for you, what about an outdoor game? Flag football and other high-activity yard games are commonly played on Thanksgiving, and they’re a great way to stay warm during this chilly time of year.

Another tradition is participating in a road race. These events, sometimes aptly named “turkey trots,” are organized by many communities and organizations on or around Thanksgiving. If held on the day of the big meal, they’re typically in the morning so people aren’t running with full bellies.

This year, turkey trots are planned for Thanksgiving day in Bath, Norway, Portland, Waterville and a few other Maine towns. Plus, prior to the holiday, the Maine Track Club is hosting its 54th annual Turkey Trot 5K on Sunday, Nov. 20, in Cape Elizabeth. Brewer High School is hosting its 41st annual Turkey Trot that same day.

If you can’t find a race in your area, you could simply go for your own pre-meal jog.

I considered looking up scientific studies that would shed light onto whether running really does increase your appetite, but my brain is rebelling against reading any more scientific papers today. Regardless, exercising in the morning may make you feel worthy of that extra slice of pie.

Bare branches reflect in a pond near Sieur de Monts Spring on Nov. 9, in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Here’s another reason to get outside this Thanksgiving: It’s a great way to feel thankful, which is what the holiday is all about, after all. Living in Maine, there’s rarely a time I feel more thankful than when I’m enjoying the state’s beautiful outdoor scenery and breathing the fresh air.

In Maine, I’m thankful to be living in the most forested state in the nation, a land peppered with 6,000 lakes and ponds. I’m grateful for the granite mountains and top-notch hiking trails, and for the rushing rivers, rocky coastline and starry sky.

In Maine, I’m thankful that I can go outside after Thanksgiving dinner and take a walk. At my house in the woods, I can follow a snowmobile trail to a stream. Just off the beaten path, I can wander through giant glacial erratics covered with ferns and moss. And in the evening, I’ll often hear the call of a barred owl echoing through the trees.

No matter the weather — because we all know how variable that can be this time of year — I hope you get the opportunity to spend some time outdoors this Thanksgiving. If it’s not something you usually do, maybe it’s time to start a new tradition.

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...