The CorePlus Reformer mimics the resistance action of a Pilates reformer… (www.ShopGaiam.com )
If the thought of a health-related gift inspires the same feeling of dreariness as receiving a mail-order fruitcake or a six-pack of tube socks, it's time time to broaden your horizons. Health doesn't have to be ho-hum: Think items to help you stay in shape, accessories inspired by biology, stories about the frontiers of medicine and much more. Read on for some suggestions from the Health staff.
Fitbit Ultra, $99.95
Devices that track physical activity have trickled into the marketplace since the debut of the Bodybugg system made famous on the show "The Biggest Loser." If you're considering one as a gift, don't overlook the Fitbit Ultra.
Fitbit Ultra is a wireless gadget about the size of a money clip that attaches to clothing or can be placed in a pocket. Weighing in at 0.4 ounces, it provides instant feedback by tracking calories spent walking, running, dancing or in everyday activities. With a 3-D motion sensor, it can calculate the intensity and duration of exercise. Fitbit Ultra also has a stair counter and stopwatch, and it provides cumulative statistics. Users can even monitor characteristics of sleep, such as when they doze off and how often they wake during the night.
Fitbit announced a free iPhone application in October that allows users to log food and activities and track their progress toward fitness and calorie goals. The Fitbit Ultra is sleek and has a readable display and a battery that will last the average user five to seven days.
The device can be purchased online or in many stores. Fitbit can be synced with the Fitbit nutrition and activity website, and there are no monthly user fees.
If you're watching your weight and haven't tried a wireless activity tracker, you're missing out on a tool that both motivates and informs.
Germs you can wear
Infectious Awareables silk scarves, $35
Disease-causing bacteria and viruses are icky, but these scarves (and neckties and bowties and boxers) are kind of beautiful. I have two scarves myself, a red-splotchy one depicting the parasites that cause malaria and another based on the tiny rod-shaped and tailed strains of bacteria that cause dental plaque. (This particular design is discontinued — or "eradicated," as the site terms it — but a new plaque design is available for scarves and ties Each item "discreetly" works the name of the germ it depicts into the border, and if you're interested in plagues and scourges, there's background information about each one at the company website.
I'll admit that some of the items aren't likely to be found on anybody's wish list — nobody I know will be receiving a pair of gonorrhea boxer shorts this festive season — but I'd gladly gift the one depicting healthy heart muscle or another in black, green, blue and pink that features mold. Other offerings include avian flu, measles, anthrax and the Foodborne Six, which features common causes of food poisoning (Campylobacter, Norwalk virus, salmonella, listeria, E. coli and shigella).
Some may find the premise tasteless given the suffering caused by infectious agents, but the Encino-based company behind these garments explains that its aim is to raise awareness helped along by a bit of humor. Infectious Awareables donates a portion of its proceeds to disease-fighting causes such as AIDS Project L.A. and Rotary International's polio eradication campaign. My mom has a scarf I sent her and wears it with delight. You can check out the selection at http://www.iawareables.com.
Skidless Towel by Lululemon, $65
Some people who exercise sweat more than others. We won't name names, but … OK, it's us. We sweat like a farm animal. In some instances it can be annoying, in some it's embarrassing, and every once in a while — such as during yoga class — it can be downright dangerous.
That's why we're grateful for the microfiber Skidless Towel from Lululemon. One side looks like a regular towel. The other side has little silicone dots that grip your mat and allow you to assume any warrior pose without your towel sliding away — and you along with it, invading the space of the person behind you who shoots you a dirty look. Not that that's ever happened to us.
The towel, which measures 68 by 24 inches, is pricier than anything you'll find at a discount linen store, but it's worth it for the peace of mind alone. Namaste.
Real life inside a hospital
"Boston Med" DVD series, $34.95
Television viewers are fascinated by hospitals — hence all the hospital-themed prime-time dramas, soap operas, mysteries and even sitcoms. But real life trumps fiction. For proof, watch the ABC documentary series "Boston Med."