Originally created 12/19/06

Health gadgets year's hot gifts



Cindy Stephens doesn't have to guess where she is in her diet. She can download it. The bodybugg device she wears on her right arm carries sensors that monitor how many calories she is using and consuming throughout the day.

"It's the first time I think people can actually see real-time what they're burning and what they're eating," said Mrs. Stephens, the director of Health Central in Augusta, which is offering them as part of a fitness program.

Health-related gadgets are hot gifts this year, as are gift certificates and discount memberships, area hospitals and gyms report. Many of the hot items on Paige Waehner's exercise gift guide on About.com are tech-related.

"There are so many different gadgets out there so I'm hearing a lot about that, about people wanting to try all of those different (technologies)," said Mrs. Waehner, a Chicago-area personal trainer who writes an exercise column for About.com. Global positioning satellite technology to gauge distance and pace and heart-rate monitors are featured in a number of new devices. Bodybugg, which gives actual measures of activity, "is probably going to be really huge," she said. "Usually, the tools that we have are pretty general."

Getting that information urges people to keep going, Mrs. Stephens said.

"Anything that makes it easier, gives them more education, more information, makes them more willing to stick with it," she said. "And they're able to see immediate results with this."

In addition, the device covers everything, not just the time in the gym, Mrs. Stephens said.

"It's your real-life activity that's important, too, not just your exercise," she said.

Music also is becoming increasingly important for many people who exercise, Mrs. Waehner said.

"People are going to be going to the gym a lot more. And you really want to have some things that are going to make your workout a lot more interesting," she said.

To encourage that, the Family Y is offering to cut its membership fee - usually $75 for individuals and $100 for families - in half. Gift certificates for memberships or even for specific things such as swimming lessons are also available, said community relations director Millie Schumacher.

"We find that this is our busiest time of the year anyway," she said. "And it's just kind of a nice way to give someone an extra incentive to go ahead and join and make a decision to commit to a healthier lifestyle for the coming year."

Consider a more unusual gift certificate - sign language lessons for babies and new parents, which Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics is now offering.

"At that age, there really isn't a lot of communication that the child can do to the parent, other than to cry," said Rene Hopkins, the coordinator of SafeKids of East Central at MCG. "So this program really focuses on enabling a child to communicate in a manner that the parent can understand what the child wants before verbal language is attainable."

For those just starting to exercise, kits and gift baskets are also popular, Mrs. Waehner said.

"Those kinds of things make good gifts for somebody who wants to get into exercise and maybe they don't know what to do and don't know what equipment to get," she said.

It should be something the person has expressed some interest in, though. Don't, for instance, surprise your wife with a body-fat calculating bathroom scale.

"Hopefully, husbands know that," Mrs. Waehner said, "but if you don't: Don't do that."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

ENCOURAGING HEALTHFUL LIFESTYLES


With many people resolving to get healthier in the New Year, Christmas can be a good time to get them started or help them stay with it.

- Getting gadgets: Paige Waehner of About.com lists a number of hot fitness gifts, including the Time Bodylink System that combines Global Positioning Satellite techno-logy, for gauging distance, with a heart rate monitor and data recorder. $275-$350.

- Discount memberships: A number of gyms offer discounted rates to join now, including the Family Y, which is cutting in half its membership fees of $75 for an individual and $100 for a family. (706) 922-9622.


- Unusual gift certificates: Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics is offering its Sign, Say and Play and More Sign, Say and Play classes by gift certificate for the first time. The classes are $135 per child. (706) 721-7606.