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Choose gifts that promote health

By Linda Breazeale

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Thoughtful gifts that promote good health can be perfect for the people who are the biggest challenges on this year's holiday shopping lists.

Jane Clary, health specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said a wide range of gifts are available that promote healthy living. Reading materials, clothing, nutrition and exercise are categories with multiple options for every age group and price range.

“Most of us have someone on our Christmas lists who seem impossible to buy for. We either don't know them well enough or think they have everything,” Clary said. “If we think in terms of gifts that promote good health, we can come up with a lot of ideas we might not normally consider.”

Reading materials...

Clary suggested books that promote good health by authors with medical or nutritional backgrounds. Some may address specific topics such as osteoporosis and others may be more general topics such as nutrition or exercise.

“Give subscriptions to magazines that promote activities such as walking, cycling or running,” Clary said. “Other more general interest magazines, such as Oprah, commonly have good health-related articles. Look to see that the editorial review boards have representation from the medical community.”

Several publications are available that promote healthy nutrition. Clary suggested the magazine Cooking Light, partially because of the extensive representation of academic and medical professionals on its editorial review board.

Nutritional...

“Something as traditional and simple as a fruit basket will be appreciated by many people,” she said. “Assemble the baskets yourself with fruits and healthy nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, for a personal touch. Additional small gifts can be included to complete the thoughtful gesture.”

Clary said several appliance-type accessories are available to promote healthy eating or drinking. Woks for vegetable stir-fry, grills, juicers or smoothy machines can be ideas for hard-to-buy-for individuals.

“Anything to get children involved in the production of healthy meals is a good idea because they are more likely to try new foods if they helped prepare them,” Clary said.

Clothing...

Most people need and appreciate comfortable work-out clothes. Items can be as simple as sweats or as nice as designer fashions for yoga or aerobics classes.

“Don't forget the importance of safety equipment for bicycling, roller blading, skateboarding or even horseback riding,” Clary said. “Helmets and appropriate padding are important for all ages.”

Proper shoes improve the overall experience of most activities. Shoes can be difficult to purchase for someone else, but gift certificates can help people invest in the best shoes possible.

Physical activity...

Clary encouraged shoppers to look for gifts that will promote exercise, possibly even family activities.

“Children need to learn as early as possible that exercise is fun. Touch football, basketball, volleyball and other similar games can be treasured family memories of fun shared,” Clary said. “Roller skates or roller blades and skateboards also can be lots of fun.”

Pedometers can make suitable stocking stuffers. Clary suggested family challenges to increase steps per day.

Joseph Chromiak, associate professor of kinesiology at MSU, said weight training is appropriate for most people, but men over 40 and women over 45 should consult with a physician before starting any exercise program.

“Consult with an expert in strength training before starting workouts with weights,” Chromiak said. “A month's trial membership at a fitness center may be a good introduction for people who have not been active recently.”

Chromiak pointed out that most health centers have specialists certified in a field of fitness who can provide guidance for exercise choices and techniques.

“Choose exercises that you enjoy. All types of exercises will have some benefit. People at risk of osteoporosis may need weight-bearing exercises,” he said. “People who have never exercised may take up an aerobic exercise before they attempted strength training. A well rounded program will include both aerobic and strength training.”

After a month in a gym, individuals can determine what types of exercise equipment would be the best investment for them.

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Released: Nov. 3, 2005
Contact: Dr. Jane Clary, (662) 325-5014 or Dr. Joseph Chromiack, (662) 325-7233

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