Your Health

Perfect presents

A guide to active gift giving for the holidays

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Who's on your list?

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2009

Every year, I stress over trying to find the perfect presents for my family and friends.

I spend many hours wandering through the shops, looking for ideas on what to get people on my list, especially those who appear to have everything or those who don't seem to like anything or have any hobbies.

This year, I am approaching the gift-buying season with a stress-free twist. I am breaking away from the traditional holiday sweaters, fruitcake covered with almond paste, ornaments for the tree or a new tie. To show my family and friends how much I really care about them, I am planning to give gifts that promote a healthy, physically active lifestyle.

I am excited about all the active gift ideas that I have been coming across as I put together my shopping list - from stocking stuffers all the way up to the bigger gifts. I'm pretty sure my family and friends are each going to get something that they'll love and will help them to be more active. I've also included lots of active items on my own "wish list" and have encouraged my two children to incorporate active items on their "wish list" for Santa.

Lisa Scharf, Physical Activity - Heart Health Manager with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba, suggests that a mix and match of at-home activity tools such as hand weights, resistance bands, skipping ropes, exercise mats and exercise videos make good active gifts. "You could also pair an active gift with the gift of your time, so you can enjoy tobogganing, skating, skiing, or snowshoeing together," she says.

Kristen Braid, CSEP-Certified Exercise Physiologist with the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks General Hospital, says there are so many great active gift ideas that it is hard to pick just one. But she says a stability ball is a great idea for a gift, especially for someone who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk during the day. "There are many exercises that can be done on a stability ball to strengthen your core (abdominal and back) muscles to improve your seated posture and balance. Just be sure to buy a quality anti-burst ball," says Braid.

"A customer service representative at any fitness equipment or medical supply store will be able to help you choose the right ball for your loved one. And don't forget to buy an instruction manual or a session with a qualified personal trainer so your loved one can learn some fun and safe exercises to get them started."

If you have an older adult on your giftbuying list, Gail Pradel and Kusela Capulong, members of the Winnipeg Health Region's Downtown Healthy Aging Resource Team, suggest a Nintendo Wii. "It is a great way to be active with friends or family and a great inter-generational activity. If Wii is not in the budget, how about a set of walking poles or traction aids for their shoes or winter boots to make winter walking safer?"

Have your children been begging to get a dog? Now may be a good time to grant their wish. Although it involves feeding, watering and some picking up after, a dog is a great way to encourage your family to be active. Research shows that dog owners are more active than those who don't own a dog. Just be sure your family is ready for the long-term commitment and lifestyle changes that come with a new four-legged family member.

Kristine Hayward is a co-ordinator with Winnipeg in motion, a partnership of the Winnipeg Health Region, the City of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba.

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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