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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season, and for many, that means the beginning of their annual battle with the bulge this time of year.

According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes approximately 3,000 calories and 150 grams of fat in a typical Thanksgiving meal.

However, in an effort to minimize unwanted weight gain, more than three dozen locals gathered at Bayou St. John in Mid-City at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning to get their holiday started on a healthy note before a weekend of festivities and calories kick in.

“You’ve got the Bayou Classic – 68,000 people coming to the city – for the first time since COVID, in the Caesars Superdome for the first time,” said event developer Omar Aziz. “So, we thought it was appropriate to have ‘Fitness on the Bayou’ – the ‘classic’ workout.”

Hosted by personal trainer Vince Bartholomew II of the New Beginnings Training Center, participants enjoyed an hour of fast-paced, high-energy exercise over a multi-station circuit along the bayou as DJ Petey Paul dropped some heart-thumping beats.
DJ Petey Paul pumps up ‘Fitness on the Bayou’ to kick off new Thanksgiving tradition in New Orleans (Photo: Aaron S. Lee | WGNO)

Thursday’s event capped a two-month offering of free fitness classes by Bartholomew, and if Aziz has his way, Fitness on the Bayou will become a New Orleans tradition.

“I think this is going to become an annual event,” Aziz told WGNO. “New York has the Thanksgiving Parade. We have other things going on in the city. We have a festival for everything. But we don’t have a festival for fitness.”

According to Bartholomew, the time to act is now as combating obesity and emphasizing fitness has never been more critical for the future of the city.

“46.6 percent of Americans are obese,” claimed Bartholomew. “That’s a serious issue. We gotta do something. We gotta get moving. That’s why we started this fitness movement. We’ve been out here since Oct. 9 giving free workouts every Saturday and we capped it off today, Thanksgiving, because I wanted people to burn stuff off before they pack it in.”

With Christmas, New Year and Mardi Gras right around the corner, Bartholomew said it’s important to maintain a consistent fitness regime as cooler weather and less sunlight set in.

“You know here in New Orleans, we are gonna party all the way to Mardi Gras,” he said. “So, you gotta keep moving, because if you don’t we are gonna pack on 10-12 pounds between Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras.

“In the winter months, your body looks for comfort foods,” Bartholomew continued. “You want the chili, you want the egg nog, you want the sweet potato pie, the apple pie. You want all those comfort foods and then when you eat them you just wanna sit on the sofa and get comfortable.

“But, no we gotta move because if you are gonna put all those calories in, at least come out here and move with me.”

For more information on ‘Fitness on the Bayou’ and New Beginnings Training Center, please click here, or to find out more about the classic workout, as well as a host of other fitness-related events, please visit the organization’s official website here.