Promote the health of the people on your list.
At holiday time people are surrounded by tempting, fatty, and sugary food and may exercise less as the days get shorter and the air chillier. You can help with gifts that support their health goals — as long as your gift doesn’t ring of criticism or pressure.
Unsalted nuts. A growing body of research confirms that eating nuts doesn’t cause weight gain and could actually help people lose pounds. In fact, a 2014 review of the research also drew the conclusion that eating nuts was a good idea to prevent common chronic diseases. Give her the unsalted kind, however, since diets heavy in salt are linked to a long list of common ailments, including obesity, kidney stones, and osteoporosis as well as high blood pressure.
Books and audio-tapes. Reading books can extend lives, according to a study of a large group of Americans age 50 and up. People who read a book a half hour a day, on average, were 17 percent less likely to die during a 12-year period. Watching TV, on the other hand, is tied to a greater risk of obesity, diabetes, and dementia. Some people watch TV rather than read because of declining eyesight or because the sound helps them stay awake. Give them audio books or an e-reader that allows them to increase the size of the font.
Comedy. For new readers, try a book that’s funny. Laughter is, as they say, the best. Consider:
• “Bossypants” by Tina Fey
• “WE KILLED: The Rise of Women in American Comedy” by Yael Kohen
• “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler
• “Days & Nights at the Second City” by Bernard Sahlens, the Second City founding member
• “Dad is Fat” by Jim Gaffigan
• “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
• “Girl Walks Into a Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a MidLife Miracle” by Rachel Dratch
Body-fat measurement tools. When we lose weight, it’s important to lose fat rather than muscle or just water. You can also have too little fat. At a gym, a trainer will measure your fat with a device called calipers. The do-it-yourself way: buy a pair of calipers for as little as about $10 and give it to a friend with an offer to help her measure. The results won’t be as precise, but you probably can see the direction over time with repeated measurements. Digital “smart” scales that claim to measure your body-fat percentage aren’t accurate, according to Consumer Reports, but they can be consistent — which, again, will show progress. The EatSmart Precision GetFit Digital Body Fat Scale has earned good scores for consistency. You could also pay for your friend to get an accurate test at a lab in something called a “Bod Pod.” To find the closest lab, check at the manufacturer’s site.
Personal training session. Most gyms or trainers offer a free training session and gift certificate. Perhaps ask her to try out a trainer, with the promise of a gift certificate to follow. If your loved one picks up the habit of working out regularly for the first time, her health will benefit hugely. Most women neglect weight training, thinking muscles are just for men. Less than 20 percent of women age 40 and up regularly do strength training, according to some research, but when researchers polled women who had participated in a group strength-training program over three months, nearly 80 percent were still working out regularly. The key is to get started. Can you find an ongoing group she could attend and pay the bill?
At-home equipment. Maybe your friend or spouse already is athletic, but a change in circumstances is keeping her at home. A simple piece of plastic could make her feel like she’s surf boarding: T-BOW. Available for $130 to $150 at t-bowusa.com from Swiss Therapeutic Training Products, this board invented in Switzerland for physical therapy has won fans as a home core workout that also builds balance and flexibility. The stable side of the T-BOW is a fine platform for step aerobics; turn the T-BOW over and she’ll experience the wobble, and have to use her core to keep from falling. She can do squats, or push-ups, crunches, and shoulder and chest stretches, all of which are harder on the undulating T-BOW than the floor. These videos will give you some ideas. If you like the concept but not the price, get the WAVE, for around $60. It’s a bit bulkier and has a slightly different shape.
Hands-free controls for your phone. Pamper your runner with Jaybird BlueBuds X Premium Micro-Sized Bluetooth Buds, $169.95, at jaybirdstore.com. These Bluetooth-operated earbuds take voice commands. They’re light and sweat-proof and come in three different size buds. She’ll have a choice of “wings” to keep the buds in place, and can adjust the cord which includes a microphone for phone calls. Note, however, that these buds are a bit larger than usual and may irritate her ears. If she’s okay with using one hand, but doesn’t want to also hold the phone, consider Amphipod ArmPod SmartView, $35, amphipod.com, an armband (with a pouch for extras) that holds big smartphones and gives her access to the touchscreen.
Keeping her safe running. Who wants to wear a bulky fanny pack? You can get her a pouch that attaches to her shoelaces for $4.99 at roadid.com. Another option: the Ultra Pocket Hat, $19.99, at goneforarun.com, which includes a built-in pocket with a zipper to store money, I.D., gels, or a sun-block stick. You can also get her a super-light ID with emergency information called RoadID Shoe Pouch ID, for $19.99 or less.
December 13, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN