December 2010

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Healthy Horizons

Lasting Gift Ideas

Computers, mobile phones and other gadgets often become out-dated before you even figure out how to use them. This holiday season, why not try giving gifts that will last a lifetime? Help your friends and loved ones stay healthy, and they’ll remember how much you care about them for years to come.

A variety of kitchen gadgets can help you prepare nutritious low-fat foods. Durable nonstick cookware helps cooks cut down on added fats and oils. Slow cookers, rice cookers and vegetable steamers can all aid in the preparation of healthy meals. You can also encourage loved ones to prepare tasty, healthy dishes by giving a healthy cookbook. NIH has several no- and low-cost options with nutritious recipes reviewed by NIH experts (see Wise Choices).

Some people get a surprising amount of their empty calories by going out to lunch or getting take-out food throughout the work week. Encourage them to bring healthy food from home with an insulated soup container, a lunchbox that doesn’t look like it’s left over from grade school or a reusable storage container with several small compartments for food.

For that friend or family member who’s been talking about getting into shape, make up a coupon for a run, bike ride or workout together. A pass to a local, state or national park system can encourage walking, biking, hiking or even kayaking. Give a gift card for a visit with a fitness trainer or classes at a local health club, pool or community center. Or try to revive interest in a neglected sport with a tune-up at a local bike shop, protective eyewear for an indoor racket sport or a nice yoga or Pilates mat.

Exercise clothing can make a great holiday gift. So can accessories, like a pedometer or a watch with a heart rate monitor. A watch with a GPS (global positioning system) helps runners track distance and pace. Hikers might also appreciate a GPS device or other accessories, like a walking stick.

For kids, sports equipment can be a great gift. Even something as simple as a flying disc, boomerang, football or soccer ball can provide hours of healthy and fun family activity.

An exercise guide can encourage life-long healthy habits. Older people on your gift list might enjoy Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging. This 120-page book helps you get motivated and describes exercises that enhance endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. It also suggests ways to modify activities so people with chronic conditions and disabilities can exercise safely. Request a free copy by calling 1-800-222-2225, or order online at

A useful gift for your entire family is a family health portrait. Tracing the illnesses of your parents, grandparents and other blood relatives can help family doctors predict the disorders your family members may be at risk for. Then you can take action to reduce your risks and stay healthy. Try the free web-based tool at

Another idea is a subscription to a healthy living magazine. Whether cooking, fitness or general health, a monthly dose of good advice can help people stay on track all year round. You can even give a subscription to NIH News in Health. Just send the name and address to, and we’ll send health information from the nation’s top experts to your loved one’s mailbox every month.