• Playing Santa: Giving Gifts That Encourage Physical Activity


    For many people a joy of the season is giving gifts to loved ones. With presents that encourage physical activity, your gifts can last all year ‘round

    The holiday wish lists are in, and everyone in your family has asked for the year’s hot new electronic items. Now what? You don’t want to be a Scrooge, but you’d prefer to use your gift giving to promote good health. You’re rightfully worried that new electronics will lead to more time sitting.

    There’s good reason to pause: Recent research suggests that being sedentary is one of the worst things you can do for your heart and cardiovascular health, and the benefits of exercise for overall health are well proven.

    So how can you give gifts that reduce sedentary time? And how do you make sure those gifts don’t get shoved to the back of the closet by mid-February?

    Try these ideas to get started:  

    Give the gift of motion, and include the plan for using it. Give your loved one a piece of athletic equipment for an activity he or she already enjoys (or is likely to) with admissions passes or lessons. Try roller skates or ice skates with passes to your local rink, a tennis racket or surfboard along with lessons, prepaid water aerobics classes at a gym, or whatever else might interest the gift recipient. One caution:  Resist the temptation to sign someone up for a sport because you enjoy it.

    Get an electronic item, but make it one that promotes activity. Buy a video gaming console with games that get you moving and increase your heart rate to a safe but beneficial level. Studies have shown that these games can improve cardiovascular fitness and are better than screen time while sitting. Keep in mind that they don’t replace exercise out in the world, where contact with nature, socializing, and different types of skill development can all take place. To make the games useful for fitness, set up family “sports” nights or join your spouse or child for a morning workout each day.

    Don’t let on that it’s exercise. If you’d like to encourage activity, give your loved one a trip to somewhere he or she has always wanted to visit and that will provide an opportunity for walking. It can be a simple day trip or something more elaborate. Even stubborn couch potatoes will often get up and out of the house for something that they are excited about. If that trip goes well, try to use it as a springboard for more outings.

    Remember, if you want to give gifts that encourage your loved ones to exercise, you may have to think “outside the mall.” This can be tough in a season that already puts extra demands on you, but the rewards are well worth it. You will likely find that you have given gifts that really consider the recipient, rather than being impulse buys or simply the season’s fads. And you’ll also be helping to give the gift of better heart health.

    From the team at SecondsCount, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.