The Gift of Health — Part 1: Gadgets and Gear

VERO BEACH — According to the old adage, “it’s the thought that counts,” so why not think of your loved one’s health this Christmas or Hanukkah?

Gifts designed to promote or enhance a healthy lifestyle can be — for someone who has already started on that path — a huge motivator or even a reward for hard work or pounds and inches lost.

It’s a way to support and convey pride in a friend or relative’s positive lifestyle choices.

So, instead of another tie or sweater or bottle of perfume, here are some ideas of products and services that can be found right here in town that can bring loved ones a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah.

Part 1 — Gadgets and Gear

It’s almost impossible to drive over the Barber Bridge or down State Road A1A and not see someone running or cycling. Running is especially popular as the Vero Beach area offers an increasing number of opportunities for competitive runs and recreational events to benefit charity.

According to Vanderbilt University scholars, “Running, a rigorous cardiovascular exercise, allows a person to burn an average of 100 calories per each mile he or she runs. Other popular activities, such as biking and walking, only burn a fraction of those calories in the same amount of time.”

The health benefits of running go beyond weight loss or maintenance, though, according to the university, it is especially so for a growing number of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who desire to stay healthy and active way into their golden years.

“Running helps lower blood pressure by maintaining the elasticity of the arteries. As a person runs, his or her arteries expand and contract more than usual, keeping the arteries elastic and the blood pressure low. In fact, most serious runners have unusually low blood pressure. Running also helps maximize the lungs’ potential, as it keeps them strong and powerful.”

One thing that makes running a simple way to get fit and stay healthy is that it doesn’t require much equipment.

According to Bill Urban, owner of Runner’s Depot on Miracle Mile, the most important tool a runner needs is a high quality and good-fitting pair of shoes to hit the pavement.

But if the runner on your shopping list is also a person who loves gadgets or who needs to have the facts and figures for everything, one of the nifty high tech watches on the market could make a great gift.

The Garmin Forerunner watch is equipped with Global Positioning Satellite technology, so it can not only pinpoint the runner’s location, but measure distance and pace, and costs about $300. For another $60, the watch comes with an upgrade that includes a heart rate monitor.

“You enter some basic information such as height, weight and gender, and, based on your workout intensity and distance, it calculates and tells you how many calories you’ve burned,” Urban said. “From a runner’s standpoint, it’s a wonderful tool.”

The Timex Ironman Global Trainer has similar functions and is also priced at around $300, or about $35 extra for the heart-rate monitor option. These gadgets are just as useful to long-distance cyclists as they are to runners.

“If they’re already into running, it’s obviously a wonderful gift. You’re sharing in their joy,” Urban said. “If I got that for a gift, I’d be thrilled.”

For the person who already owns an iPod or an iPhone, the Nike + iPod Sport kit is a handy device. Consisting of a special receiver to be connected to the iPod or iPhone and a sensor to be placed in the athlete’s shoe, the kit acts as a computerized pedometer, delivering real-time information on pace, calories burned, time and distance — though the distance is not as pinpoint accurate as the GPS-equipped devices.

The menu allows the runner to choose a workout and pre-programmed sports music to fit the desired pace, or the system also works well with any music on the iPod or iPhone.

The Nike + iPod Sport kit retails for about $30 and, of course, Nike makes a specially designed running shoe with a pocket for the Nike + sensor.

If your special someone is a cyclist and loves having the latest and greatest ride, the newest thing out in the bicycle world is the 29-inch-wheeled mountain bike. This frame takes the rugged concept of the mountain bike and combines it with the larger wheel of a 10-speed and then goes one step better. Bicycle Sport on the mainland carries the latest in racing and leisure bikes, as well as all the gear, accessories and fashion cycling wear that could fit underneath the Christmas tree.

Cyclists who put a lot of miles on their bikes might also appreciate practical gifts like tires, chains or a new air pump, or a gift certificate to buy the items required to keep their bikes in good and safe working order.

For any sport or fitness activity, a new bag or pack to carry gear can freshen up your Secret Santa’s workout and can also serve as creative packaging for other health and fitness related gifts.

The fitness enthusiast who has everything and wants to keep tabs on their lean body mass might adore you for investing in a body composition analyzer scale. Depending on brand, sturdiness, features and whether or not the scale comes with a printer, these items range from about $350 to $3,000.Watch for The Gift of Health, Part 2 — Professional Help, coming up Saturday.

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