Log In

Reset Password

Christmas gift ideas for the healthy and fit

Unless you’re one of those bargain-hunting types who gets an adrenaline rush from pushing and shoving and saving a few bucks before daybreak on Black Friday, it’s time to consider the sorts of Christmas gifts you’ll give this year. Or maybe you have already and have drawn a blank.

Either way, here’s my gift-giving philosophy.

Giving a gift that fulfills a need is good. Giving one that the receiver wants but wouldn’t get for himself or herself for whatever reason is better.

Granted, giving the “better” gift is not always possible, but if you can, the recipient receives something else just as valuable as what’s concealed by wrapping paper: the comforting knowledge that someone else understands their situation. And that generates a far deeper gratitude than, let’s say, giving a generic gift certificate.

So you “get,” too. And keep getting.

A Christmas doesn’t go by, for instance, when my brother doesn’t thank me for a gift I gave him about 20 years ago. And does that ever make me feel good.

He had just moved into his first house with his soon-to-be wife and was working more than normal. He was still lifting weights, but not as often or as intensely as before; therefore, the weight he was adding wasn’t muscle.

So what big brother decided little brother needed was aerobic exercise - and a Schwinn Airdyne. It’s a stationary bicycle with a flywheel that serves as a fan and teams up with moveable arm bars to allow for “an intense upper-and-lower-body workout right at home,” according to the Schwinn website.

It became and still is an effective way for my bro to burn a good number of cals in only 20 to 30 minutes - plus his two children and wife occasionally use it, too.

While a stationary bicycle can be a big-ticket item, a great gift can be spot on and not as expensive.

This Christmas, for instance, I plan to get my 15-year-old nephew Lucas, who’s really showing promise as a baseball player and interest in eating better, dozens of protein drinks and bars. I’ve purchased all the obvious baseball-related gifts already - like a glove, four dozen balls for batting practice with dad , and a really sweet Victus Vandal BBCOR-3 baseball bat - and was determined not to repeat last year’s gift, an Xbox gift card.

My niece Kobi, who’s in college and has been battling with her weight since she was 10, just started working out twice a week with a personal trainer. But the sessions are expensive for an undergrad working 20 hours a week at Target, so getting her a half year’s worth should really help her - and not someone else.

I gave her cash last year and, bless her soul, she bought diapers and baby clothes for a friend in need.

Family stories aside, it’s now time to offer a gift idea for those who exercise intensely and frequently. It’s a garment I’ve used for about 18 years to help facilitate muscle recovery: compression socks or the variation I’ve come to prefer, ankle-to-knee compression sleeves.

While you can wear either during exercise, a systematic review of all such studies published in November 2020 by the Journal of Sports Medicine found doing so only improved performance in a small number. Wearing compression socks after exercise, however, “could benefit muscle function . . . immediately afterwards and hours after an exercise bout.”

Wearing them after a long and hard Saturday ride allows my legs to recover enough so that I can ride just as long Sunday - and sometimes just as hard. Since the aforementioned review was not limited to cycling, walkers, runners, hikers, and weight lifters after a leg workout should also benefit from wearing them.

An important related note: Numerous studies show compression socks mitigate venous problems in the legs or keep them from occurring. They do so by reducing the pooling of blood in the veins which in turn reduces the incidence of vein inflammation (known as phlebitis thrombophlebitis), varicose veins, and blood clots.

Another gift idea to facilitate leg recovery that works just as well on other parts of the body, especially the glutes and the back, is a hard foam roller. While soft foam rollers seem to be more popular, I prefer the hard foam - though that may be predicated upon my prior injuries.

What makes either a worthwhile gift is that foam rolling can counteract the unwanted results of ambitious exercise: adhesions from injuries and muscle knots from general use.

While a meta-analysis published in the April 2019 issue of Frontiers in Physiology called the effects of foam rolling before and after exercise “rather minor,” it oddly enough also declared foam rolling “can be relevant in some cases” and “evidence seems to justify the widespread use.”

Which makes it a good and less expensive gift alternative to the ubiquitous self-massage “guns” currently flooding the market.