Only weeks before Christmas, and in a mad rush; you realized your best gift ideas weren’t up to much. You’ve bought for the children, and diminished your wealth; but what do you buy for a fit freak who’s focused on health?
Terrible, clichéd Christmas rhymes aside, buying a suitably techy gift for those obsessed with health and fitness shouldn’t be a chore. It’s time for the MakeUseOf health and fitness gift guide.
Activity Trackers & Trainers
Wearable activity trackers are the obvious choice for anyone who likes to stay in shape and monitor their fitness level from the comfort of a smartphone. However, the recipient may already own one, so glance at their wrist or drop the word “Fitbit” into a conversation before pulling the trigger.
In some cases, the Apple Watch 3 (from $329) may be your best choice in terms of activity tracking. For users with an iPhone, the Apple Watch provides not only a robust selection of workout and health metric gathering, but also a ton of smartwatch features like the ability to take calls, use Siri, and reply to messages. The latest model includes even better heart rate monitoring and an LTE option for connectivity that doesn’t rely on an iPhone .
Activity monitors are simply that — wearable, activity-tracking bands, with many offering night time “sleep quality” monitor capabilities too. You don’t need to be particularly active to get a kick out of this, and such devices may even encourage users to be more active once their current daily patterns are visualized.
Fitbit leads in the dedicated activity tracker space. Their current flagship wearable is the Fitbit Ionic, a smartwatch with built-in GPS, workout coaching, music storage, heart rate monitoring, and — crucially — a battery that lasts for days. It’s a great choice for non-Apple users who can’t get the most out of an Apple Watch, and it’s also a bit cheaper to boot.
The other Fitbit tracker to consider is the slightly cheaper Fitbit charge 2, a follow-up to the original best-seller. It lacks many of the features we’ve come to expect from smartwatches, but it packs in most of the important bits: heart rate monitoring, an OLED screen, all-day activity tracking, sleep tracking, and the battery will last most of the week. It’s a bit cheaper, plus you’ll find it in a variety of colors to suit any fitness freak.
Fair warning: a smart scale might not be the perfect gift for your loved one this Christmas. Nothing says “you’ve put on a few pounds” like buying someone a device that encourages them to watch their weight, but then again if you know someone who’d get a kick out of such a gift then you’ve got a few good choices.
The Fitbit Aria 2 is probably the most recognizable smart scale, and it’s an all-rounder that slips comfortably into the company’s ecosystem. Track weight, body fat percentage, BMI, and lean mass for multiple users in a single household. Everything is visible from the accompanying app, alongside activity tracker data to build a better picture of your fitness journey.
For an alternative smart scale that punches well above its weight, try the QardioBase 2. It does pretty much everything the Fitbit Aria 2 does, except with added monitoring or water percentage, bone mass, and a pregnancy mode.
And for a slightly cheaper scale that still covers the basics, take a look at the Nokia Body+. It does weight, body fat percentage, and water (alongside bone and muscle mass calculators), and automatically sends data to your devices via Wi-Fi.
Most smartphone-wielding sporty types track their activities using some sort of app, whereas others use a fitness plan or online training service to keep in shape. These companies have to make money somehow, and that’s usually by offering advanced features in the form of premium subscriptions.
If you can find out what the recipient is already using, that’ll be a huge help. The big two, including Strava ($60) and Runkeeper ($40), both allow you to gift a year’s subscription for perks like personalized coaching and workouts, real-time feedback, and the ability to broadcast your location to your friends for safety (or bragging) purposes.
Instructional training program Fitstaroffers a variety of gift packages for both their standard service and yoga over on the Fitstar Store. Of course, most runners don’t run alone — a single Spotify gift card is good for three months, and an Apple Music subscription can be purchased using an iTunes credit amount of your choosing.
Why not give the gift of wide-angle fun this year? Action cameras perfectly complement a range of activities, from hiking and climbing to cycling, surfing, skating, or even walking the dog. They’re small enough to keep in your pocket, tough as old boots and waterproof too. The latest and greatest come with stellar video features and the ability to track a variety of data.
GoPro is the king of action cameras, with their latest flagship being the HERO6 Black. The action cam manages full 4K video at 60 frames per second, 240 frames-per-second in 1080p mode, 12 megapixel still images, waterproofing to 10 meters, and a battery life of 1-3 hours depending on how you use it.
If that’s a bit of a stretch, why not go for last year’s big thing instead? The HERO5 Black is considerably cheaper, but 4K video tops out at 30 frames per second, while 1080p only manages 120 frames per second. Most of the other specs are the same though, and the footage is still some of the best in class.
For something completely different, look to the Olympus TG-Tracker. While the video capabilities are lacking compared to GoPro’s latest (4K video at 30 frames, 1080p video at 120 frames, 7.2 megapixel still images), the Olympus has a trick up its sleeve: tons of sensors. It includes in-built GPS, accelerometer, compass, acceleration, barometer, and thermometer, allowing you to show off this data alongside your footage.
Sports headphones are a little different to regular headphones in that they’re built to be tough and resistant to moisture and grime. Sound quality can suffer, while build quality will outpace most comparable other headphones at this price point. Best of all, wireless audio makes listening to tunes while you workout easier than ever.
For a cheap and cheerful stocking stuffer, try a pair of top-rated SENSO Bluetooth headphones. You can’t expect top-notch sound quality at this price point, but the inclusion of Bluetooth 4.1 and an IPX-7 waterproof rating means they’ll withstand a good number of workouts (and they’re cheap enough to throw in a gym bag).
For something a little nicer, the Jaybird X3 wireless earbuds are roughly three times the price but they don’t sacrifice sound quality. A hydrophobic coating stops short of waterproofing but helps wick away moisture. They also look pretty cool, which is nice.
Finally, for any iPhone users in your life, there’s the Powerbeats 3. They’re not the greatest pair of headphones on the market, but they do use Apple’s superior W1 chip for excellent wireless audio quality. A great alternative is the BeatsX, which lack the waterproofing found on the Powerbeats 3 but deliver great audio in a snug packageat a pocket-friendly pricepoint.
There are many types of cyclists, from those who ride for sport, to those who conquer single track and mountains, and others who’d rather ride to work to keep fit and save money. Luckily there are a few products that appeal to most cyclists that make great holiday gifts.
Whether you’re commuting or riding for sport, safety is important. Rear and front lighting are invaluable, and a “dashcam” to capture hazards or anything you find interesting along your ride is nice too. Australian brand Cycliq has managed to combine the two products into one with their Fly6 and Fly12 mountable light and camera combinations.
As the naming convention suggests, the Fly6 is a rear-mounted red light while the Fly12 mounts on the handlebars with a brighter light designed to illuminate the path in front of you. The Fly range can capture HD footage at up to 60 frames per second, with a 135º wide-angle view and built-in six-axis stabilization. The lights are great too, with 100 lumens at the back and 600 lumens up front (the older models aren’t quite as bright).
Another great convenience is the ability to follow directions or glance at a map while riding. I bought a Quad Lock case for my iPhone 6, and I’ve since bought the iPhone 7 Plus case when I changed my phone last year. I use it every time I get on my bike, and there’s a whole system of QuadLock mounts and armbands for running, use in cars, on boats, and anywhere else you can stick a mounting plate.
Another hit with the commuters is a dazzlingly powerful light, something that can not only open up the world of night time riding but also prove to be an invaluable safety precaution. The CatEye Volt 700 provides a blinding 700 lumens worth of light, charges over USB (or a dynamo hub), and promises to run for 100 hours.
Running is fairly personal affair — specialist equipment like shoes and clothing are often tied to the runner’s own preference, which develops over time as they become more serious about working up a sweat.
Moov is a company that produces a range of activity trackers and trainers, but they take more of an active approach to training than many of their rivals. The Moov Now is a cheap activity monitor that lacks heart rate monitoring and GPS, but packs a six-month battery life with a focus on training for activities like running and swimming.
For a better feature set, why not look at the Moov HR Sweat, which is basically a smart sweatband. The head-mounted band monitors metrics like heart rate and blood oxygen through your forehead. Voice coaching keeps you on your toes, while your workout data is recorded using the companion app.
Stride sensors can provide all sorts of information about your workout, and even help you improve it. The Polar Stride Sensor ($70) is one such solution that doesn’t require purchasing a new pair of shoes and instead connects to a smartphone to upload and track your results online. Analyze running speed and distance, cadence and stride length — all to get a better picture of your progress over time.
Polar recently released the H10, which they consider to be their most accurate heart rate sensor ever, which works well for tracking cardio activities in or out of the gym. It works with or without a smartphone, which is perfect if you’re a fan of “naked” running and prefer to leave your devices at home.
Finally, for the runner who complains that those smartphone armband holders are too uncomfortable and sweaty, a SPIbelt Sports ($21) running belt should do the trick. They’re specifically designed not to bounce when used during exercise, providing an accessible pouch for your smartphone, cash, cards, and keys till you get home.
What will you be buying the health-conscious and fitness-obsessed person in your life this Christmas?
Originally written November of 2015
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