Give the gift of health and happiness this holiday season

Did you know exercise is the one thing proven to slow the aging process? Did you know it enhances not only our physical health, but our mental health too? It’s true, and these are just some of the benefits.

When it comes to our health, there are some things we can’t control – things like genetics. It’s also safe to say there are things we wish we’d done differently – like wearing sunscreen regularly, not smoking, spending a little less time on the couch with the remote, and making healthier choices.

This holiday season, if you’re shopping for gifts to give colleagues, friends, or family, why not consider small items that can often spark big lifestyle changes? As a former personal trainer, having led fitness classes for over 25 years, and as a lifestyle writer, here are 10 gifts I recommend:

  1. A pedometer. A basic pedometer can be purchased for next-to-nothing and when worn regularly, almost always inspires the user to take more steps each day. Walking more is the single best thing most Canadians can do to improve their health. Aim for 10,000 steps a day, but remember that every extra step has value.
  2. A running belt. Whether you walk, run, bike, snowshoe, or Nordic ski, a well-fitting running belt that holds a water bottle or two, as well as a phone and keys, leads to a more comfortable workout and makes a great gift.
  3. Nordic walking poles. Don’t underestimate the value of walking for exercise, particularly if you use poles. I’ve had my poles from Urban Poling for years and although I’ve poled many miles, they’re still in great shape. I’ve enjoyed them on city sidewalks, hiking trails and in mountains of snow. What’s not to love about a workout that engages ninety per cent of the muscles in the body, including abdominal and back muscles?
  4. A gift card. Give a gift card to a favorite sporting goods store and who knows what you may inspire. That friend or relative may be a budding runner, swimmer, basketball star, or even, Olympian. What’s not to love about treating oneself to a new water bottle, or a dazzling pair of spandex workout shorts?!
  5. A yoga mat. Whether or not friends or family actually take up yoga is irrelevant. Having a mat will encourage them to sit or lie on it. Once they do this, they’ll be much more likely to do some stretching, to try a few push-ups, to give meditation a try, or to take a nap. Laugh not, quality sleep is also essential for good health.
  6. An iTunes gift card. I love giving these to friends who then treat themselves to music for their workout playlists, or to apps for practicing mindfulness or meditation, or that support their healthy lifestyle goals.
  7. An invitation. One of the most special gifts we can share is the gift of our time. Share yours with friends and family by inviting them to join you for an activity you love. How about Nordic walking on a wintry trail, a spin class at the gym, a game of indoor tennis, or a day on the slopes?
  8. A lesson. Many years ago, I was given the gift of a boxing class. I wound up having a fantastic time and stumbled onto a new activity I still enjoy. Consider the gift of yoga classes, tennis lessons, horseback riding lessons, a learn-to-run program, or a dance class.
  9. A jump rope. Not just for kids, jumping rope can build endurance, lower body strength, and coordination. If we all walked and jumped rope more often, we’d be a healthier and happier nation!
  10. You decide! Although training gloves, kettle bells, free weights, hula hoops, fitness trackers, heart rate monitors and sport socks all come to mind for this final gift recommendation, I’m hoping to have inspired you to think of a few ideas of your own. What motivates you off the couch and into action? Go get it, and while you’re at it, pick up one or two extra for friends or family to spur an active and healthy holiday season and New Year!
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