Holiday gifts help exercisers heat it up and cool it down

Reuters
Women do yoga in a public park next to the beach in Del Mar, California
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Women do yoga in a public park next to the beach in Del Mar, California November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Mike …

By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From sophisticated activity trackers and chest-mounted cameras to massage rollers and yoga toes, fitness experts say gifts for people trying to get in shape or stay that way include everything from high-tech toys to basic workout gear.

Marathoners, yoga instructors and other health and fitness pros say there is something for everyone hoping to rev up a workout, or trying to cool it down.

"My big recommendation is one of the many popular motion sensors," said Shirley Archer, a Florida-based fitness and wellness expert.

Archer, author of the book "Fitness 9 to 5," has used several fitness bracelets that can track everything from steps walked to miles run or hours slept.

"They do a great job of raising awareness of how physically active a person genuinely is," she said.

To boost or fine-tune cardio training, Dr. Mark Kelly, a California-based exercise physiologist, recommends interval training apps, such as Android's Stopwatch or Seconds Pro, which track recovery as well as exertion.

"You can list the exercise you are doing," said Kelly, CEO of Principle Centered Health, Inc., which specializes in fitness assessment and corporate wellness. "HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) formats often come pre-loaded."

For the tech-averse, Kelly said, a subscription to a health or fitness magazine will provide both a monthly exercise reminder and exposure to the latest workout trends.

Connecticut-based running coach Tom Holland believes a wearable camera, which sells for about $400, would be the ideal gift for serious runners seeking to record their races.

He said the GoPro Black Edition Camera, mounted on a chest harness strap, can record a run up the Empire State Building or through the Grand Canyon.

For the serious cyclist, Holland suggests a Tacx virtual reality cycle trainer, which ranges in price from $350 to $2,000.

"It's a bike trainer that allows you to ride any course in the world. Incredible technology," he said.

As a runner used to braving cold New England winters, Boston-based running coach Kelly Flynn said all-weather runners always appreciate light, warm layers of running wear and a good pair of socks.

Flynn, a coach for "Team In Training," the charity sports endurance program from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, also suggests giving The Stick, a massaging roller said to improve muscle circulation, flexibility, strength and endurance.

Florida-based fitness expert Suzanne Bowen said a good gift for yoga enthusiasts would be gel toe separators, which are designed to strengthen foot muscles, realign toe bones and improve tendon flexibility.

"They stretch your feet," said Bowen, creator of the "BarreAmped" DVDs. "Feet are the foundation of our structure, and we spend too many hours crammed into our shoes."

Gregory Chertok, a sports psychology consultant for the American College of Sports Medicine, favors basic fitness gifts.

"Simply, I love the hand grip," Chertok said. "It's not a high-tech device, but a strong grip will enhance performance on lots of strength and resistance training programs."

Most upper body exercises, he added, begin with gripping a weight or a barbell.

Dr. Michele Olson, professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, said a good pedometer is an ideal gift for anyone trying to get fit.

"Pedometers work," she said. "They give sort of neutral feedback and are simple and not overwhelming with technology."

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Jan Paschal)

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