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Holiday tech fitness gifts can cheer athletes and amateurs

[NEW YORK] From jogging strollers to smart bathroom scales and waterproof watches, fitness experts say holiday gifts cater to all types of exercisers, from the new mom shedding baby weight to the seasoned triathlete chasing a performance boost.

Technology remains in the forefront, as gadgets grow ever more user-friendly, compact and sophisticated. "The ideal holiday gift is some kind of fitness tracker: these simple tools you can just wear on your wrist," said Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine. "Five years ago, pedometers just measured steps. Now they're counting calories and even sleep." A waterproof, shockproof, dustproof smartphone case is among the suggestions of Shirley Archer, a Los Angeles-based trainer and author of "Fitness 9 to 5." "Many use their phones for training with fitness apps, so everyone needs to protect it from sweat and impact," said Ms Archer, who also recommends a walking or jogging belt with room for water bottle(s) and pockets for smartphone, identification and keys. "These have really improved over the years," she said.

For people who like walking or running with their four-legged companion, Ms Archer suggests a hands-free dog leash that hooks on to a belt or bicycle. "Not only is it a pleasure to walk, run or hike hands-free, it's also great core training as the wearer must use core muscles to control the dog's movements," she said.

Another familiar sight is runners pushing streamlined strollers. Jessica Matthew, an exercise physiologist at Miramar College in San Diego, said prices run the gamut. "Jogging strollers are designed with the mechanics of running in mind, from the position of the handles to the increased shock absorption," she explained.

Ms Matthews said compression clothing, such as socks and sleeves designed to provide support, are popular with everyday exercisers. "Some studies some have found these garments can improve blood flow, help fatigue and muscle soreness," she said,"although science is still trying to understand the full extent of how it works." Connecticut-based running coach Tom Holland likes GPS watches and Wi-Fi smart scales. "GPS watches can tell distance, pace, heart rate, swim strokes and more, all easily uploaded to apps or computer," said Mr Holland, author of "Swim, Bike, Run-Eat." Wi-Fi smart scales can track lean mass and body fat percentage as well as weight, he added, and share it all with a personal trainer.