Fitness enthusiasts welcome gifts that support an active lifestyle whether it’s a new piece of gear or a reminder to keep moving. Make the new year healthier by adding these gift ideas to your shopping list.
Monogrammed Yoga Mat
Whether the person on your list is a yoga guru or simply needs a good spot for crunches, a monogrammed yoga mat makes workouts more fun. Many companies allow you to customize mats with initials or names in a variety of cheerful colors and fonts.
Framed Motivational Quotes
With craft and artist websites like Etsy.com, framed artwork boasting motivational quotes has moved beyond soaring eagles and wooded landscapes. Artists can take a favorite quote and turn it into colorful, quirky wall art that will fit into anyone's home decor.
As winter days grow shorter, it can be tough to fit in exercise during daylight hours. Whether your loved ones are bike commuters or early morning walkers, dependable flashing headlamps, bike lights and reflective shirts and vests are the perfect gift for keeping them safe and fit.
Foam rollers have become an essential piece of fitness equipment. A variety of styles are available, but they all operate the same way. The foam cylinder is rolled against the muscles to massage and ease soreness. To ensure your fitness enthusiast gets the most out of the gift, buy one that comes with an instructional video.
Even the biggest fitness advocate can't be on the move all the time. Grab the latest book on running, cycling, or yoga to keep them engaged during down time. From books by ultramarathoners to football players to yogis, there are numerous options on fitness and motivation available at your local book store.
Compression gear helps with recovery and blood circulation. A pair of compression leg sleeves is a great gift for the athlete and avid exerciser in your life. Not only are they beneficial post-workout, they can also help with blood circulation on long flights or road trips.
Race Number Belt
For competitors, pinning race numbers to shirts can be frustrating. Number belts are thin belts of elastic with holders for attaching the race number near the waistline. This keeps the numbers secure and out of the way.
There is nothing worse than sticky strands of hair in your face during a workout. New sports headbands are made of comfortable, elastic materials that hold hair in place no matter how high-impact the activity. They also come in stylish prints and colors, and make great stocking stuffers for fitness lovers.
Research shows that cooking vegetables can increase some nutrients, but not all methods are the same. Choosing the healthiest ways to cook your vegetables will help you boost nutrition and improve health.
Microwaving not only provides a quick cooking option, it may also help foods retain more nutrients. Studies show that steaming vegetables in the microwave may be the best way to preserve most vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C which rapidly decreases with other cooking methods.
Steaming vegetables in a metal or bamboo steaming basket is another ideal option. One study showed that steaming helped to retain the cancer-fighting glucosinolates found in broccoli. It also retained the carotenoids in zucchini and significantly increased carotenoids in carrots and broccoli. Additionally, it was found to best protect the polyphenols (a group of antioxidants) in these vegetables when compared to boiling and frying.
In one study, sauteing (stir-frying in a small amount of oil) helped to retain nutrients (especially vitamin C) when compared to boiling and stir-frying without oil. While sauteing uses high heat, food is cooked quickly which helps reduce nutrient loss. A small amount of oil also adds flavor to the food, unlike steamed vegetables which are bland when unseasoned.
Boiling is often considered a poor method for healthy cooking because nutrients are pulled from the food and into the cooking water. But boiling may not be as bad as we thought. Studies show that boiling produced results similar to steaming for preserving carotenoids in zucchini, and increasing them in broccoli and carrots. It retains vitamin C content better than frying, but not as well as steaming and sauteing.
Roasting vegetables exposes them to high heat for longer periods of time which can decrease vitamins, but not all nutrients are lost. The benefit of roasting is that it brings out the best flavors in vegetables making them much more delicious without adding unhealthy fat and sodium. If you find steamed vegetables bland, a few roasted vegetables mixed in can improve the flavor while still providing plenty of nutrients.
Studies support that frying is the worst cooking method for preserving the nutrients in vegetables. High temperatures quickly degrade even the most stable vitamins. Vitamin C, carotenoids and polyphenols all decrease in foods cooked by frying. Fried foods can also contain saturated fats, trans fats, and excess sodium making frying the least desirable cooking method for health.
This salad is perfect for a light and healthy lunch. It’s topped with nutritious vegetables and nuts, along with a sprinkle of dried cranberries for sweetness. The fresh cranberry dressing has a splash of orange that brings all of the flavors together. Pair it with a cup of soup, or add some protein with roasted chickpeas or grilled chicken for a full meal.
Yield: 4 small salads
Preparation time: 15 minutes
10 to 15 whole, fresh cranberries
4 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/8 tsp fine ground sea salt
5 cups mixed lettuces or greens
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
2 green onions, sliced
8 white button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium carrot, shredded
¼ cup pecan halves
¼ chopped dried cranberries
In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the fresh cranberries, orange juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and form a dressing.
Place the lettuce, spinach, green onions, mushrooms, carrot, pecans and dried cranberries in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.
Divide into 4 portions and serve.
Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 138; Total Fat 8.3 g; Saturated Fat 0.8 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 90 mg; Carbohydrate 17.2 g; Fiber 5.2 g; Sugar 9.9 g; Protein 3.2 g
A non-stop schedule makes getting the rest you need difficult while also pushing stress levels to the limit. You might think you will recover once the holidays are over, but at that point the damage may be done. Research shows that both sleep and stress are linked to your weight loss success. Keeping rest and stress relief at the top of your priority list will ensure you get through a hectic period while still hanging onto your health and your waistline.
Sleep is often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity. This encourages squeezing more tasks into the day at the cost of a restful night’s sleep. Many people operate on five to six hours per night, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most adults need seven to nine hours to function at their full potential.
Lack of sleep has bigger consequences than tiredness. Research shows that sleep influences the hormones that regulate appetite, preventing weight loss and often resulting in weight gain. There are three main appetite hormones – ghrelin, leptin, and cortisol. Ghrelin and cortisol stimulate appetite giving you the urge to eat more. Leptin suppresses appetite signaling fullness. When you don’t get enough sleep ghrelin and cortisol production increases and leptin production decreases. This results in increased cravings and hunger which can lead to a higher calorie intake that causes weight gain.
Stress and lack of sleep often go hand-in-hand. Stressful situations can keep you up at night and tiredness and irritability can make daily tasks more stressful. High stress also causes a spike in cortisol further triggering food cravings, especially for high-calorie carbohydrates. This constant increase in appetite can make it difficult to resist unhealthy snacks and grazing between meals.
Set Your Priorities
Making sleep and stress control a priority will better prepare you to accomplish your endless to-do list while keeping your weight in check. Follow these tips for increasing sleep and reducing your stress levels.
Set a regular schedule for the time you go to bed and wake every day.
If you sometimes experience insomnia, get your workout in at least four hours before bedtime and avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
If your mind races at night, keep a notebook and pen by the bed. When a thought or task pops in your head, write it down, forget about it, and get some sleep.
Exercise, even if you can only fit in 10 minutes. Every little bit will help to reduce stress.
Add stretching exercises and short walks throughout the day to give yourself a break from stressful work.
Delegate your to-do list. Are there things that family and friends can assist with like cleaning, shopping, or cooking? Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If cravings and hunger increase, take time to evaluate your sleep schedule and stress level. Make changes to gain control before you start seeing the evidence in the form of extra pounds on the scale.
When you are short on time even a small amount of exercise will boost your energy and ease stress. This quick, but challenging workout can be squeezed into any busy day. March in place to warm up a few minutes before you begin and cool down with some light stretching. When time allows, repeat the circuit 2 to 3 times for a full 20 to 30 minute workout.
Cardio Shuffle (90 seconds)
Stand with feet hip-width apart and bend the knees slightly, lowering into an easy squat. Quickly shuffle your feet while staying in place. The faster you shuffle the more challenging the move.
Squats with a Knee Raise (60 seconds)
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower into a full squat (sit back and keep your knees behind your toes). Return to the starting position and raise your right knee high, towards your chest as you contract your abs. Return the foot to the floor, squat and repeat with your left knee.
Side-to-Side Shuffle (90 seconds)
Repeat the Cardio Shuffle, but this time shuffle to your right for 4 counts and back to your left for 4 counts, moving your feet as quickly as possible. Continue side-to-side for the full 90 seconds.
Jumping Lunges (60 seconds)
Step your right foot forward and lower into a lunge position. Lower the left knee to the ground and bend the right knee, being sure that it doesn’t shift forward past your toes. Push yourself up with an explosive movement, jumping into the air. As you jump, switch your legs so your left foot is forward and your right foot back. Lower into a lunge, jump and repeat.
Alternating Toe Touches (90 seconds)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and with your arms extended out to each side at shoulder level. Keeping your leg straight, kick your right leg out in front of you, raising it to waist level. At the same time, reach your left hand towards your toes, rotating the torso. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Alternating Side Planks (60 seconds)
Get into plank position on your toes with straight arms and hands directly below the shoulders (as if you were preparing to do a standard push-up). Shift your weight to your right hand as you rotate to the left. Turn your right foot so that the outside is in contact with the floor and your left foot is stacked on top of it. Support yourself with your right arm and the outside of the right foot. Extend your left arm up into the air so that there is a straight line from your right hand, across your shoulders, to your left hand in the air. Return to the starting position and rotate to your right to repeat on the other side.
Mountain Climbers (90 seconds)
Stay in plank position. Pull your right knee towards your chest and rest your right toes on the floor. Jump slightly to switch your feet and land with your left knee in and toes on the floor. Continue to jump and alternate the legs.
Push-ups (60 seconds)
Stay in plank position and move your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. You can perform the exercise on your toes or on your knees. Lower your chin to the ground, keeping your abs tight and your body in a straight line from head to heels (or knees). Push back up to the starting position.