Body & Fitness

Positive presents

With the new year fast approaching, here are some great gift ideas to get off 2011 on the right foot!


Gardening pack

If getting your kids to eat vegetables is a never-ending battle, it may help if the veges you serve up are things they’ve grown themselves. You can encourage a lifelong interest in homegrown food by giving them a gardening starter pack. oany garden centres sell them or you can make one yourself. Include several packets of seeds, a trowel, a watering can, plant food, plastic stakes and labels so they know what they’ve planted. If there’s no space in the garden, also include a suitable pot or container and some potting mix.

Electric toothbrush

It’s important for kids to develop good dental hygiene and an electric toothbrush in their Christmas stocking may encourage them. They clean teeth better than manual toothbrushes and some have fun features – such as music that plays when brushing time is up – that mean you’re less likely to have to nag them to clean their teeth.


Children’s eyes need protecting from the harsh New Zealand sun just as much as adults’. According to research in the US, children under 10 are at greater risk of suffering permanent damage to retinas due to exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Extended exposure to sunlight during childhood has been linked to cataracts and macular degeneration in adults. Too much sunlight can also cause a condition called photokeratitis, which is a kind ofsunburn of the eyes. There are sunglasses designed for kids with good-quality lenses.



These count the number of steps you take. Health and fitness experts say we should all be trying to take 10,000 steps a day, and wearing a pedometer can motivate you to keep moving. Basic models simply add up your steps, while more complex versions can give you information such as how many calories you’ve burned or whatdistance you’ve walked. Pedometers make great stocking fillers and because they’re light and small, they’re an ideal gift to post.

Active video games

If you can’t get a loved one away from the TV, you may be able to at least get them off the couch with the gift of an active video game. It helps if they already have a console – you can get them a variety of games that get them doing workouts, dancing or playing sports like golf or tennis. According to research carried out by the oayo Clinic in the US, children who played active video games used three to six times more energy than normal. They were most physically active playing games that involved dancing.

Swiss ball

Here’s an idea for someone who spends lots of time plonked on the sofa – give them a Swiss ball to sit on instead. Because it’s unstable, you have to constantly adjust your position to avoid falling off, which improves balance and flexibility as well as strengthening lower back and abdominal muscles. But don’t stop there – include an instruction book or DVD to show how it can easily be used as an exercise aid, to do everything from abdominal crunches to stretches.


Vegetable steamer

Vegetables that have been steamed keep more nutrients and more of their original flavour than boiled ones, and you’re not adding any fats, as with roasted or fried vegetables. You can get several different types of steamers, from dishes designed to steam veges in the microwave to metal or plastic basket-shaped devices that sitin a saucepan. You can even get flash three-level electric steamers that can steam several different types of food at once.

Electric grill

Grilling food is much better for you than frying it. Frying foods is believed to produce free radicals – substancesthat can damage cells, increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease and premature ageing. It’s also thought that frying food may destroy many of the nutrients it contains. Grilling is good (as long as you don’t burn the food – burning also produces free radicals) because it doesn’t produce the chemical reaction that can cause free radicals, and also because when you’re grilling meat, the fat runs away, making it healthier.

Herb garden

Cooking with herbs improves the flavour of food and also has health benefits. As well as being packed full of nutrients, basil and oregano have anti-inflammatory properties, rosemary is thought to protect brain cells from free radicals, and sage is believed to improve memory. Herbs can be grown in pots on window sills if there’s no room in the garden. Buy pretty pots with the names of herbs printed on them, add some potting mix, seeds and a water sprayer, and you have an ideal gift.



From sudoku and crosswords to jigsaws and hands-on puzzles like the Rubik’s cube, doing puzzles helps to keep brain cells healthy and can improve memory and your ability to reason. Board games such as chess, draughts and even Cluedo can also help give your brain a workout.


Here’s a great example of Kiwi ingenuity. The locally developed Aircycle is an inflatable device designed to help exercise feet and legs from a sitting position without putting any weight on your joints so it’s especially good for people with arthritis. You use a pedalling motion to push down on two partly inflated chambers, which helps with pain management, circulation problems, swollen ankles, cramps, stiff joints and aching legs. It may help improve balance, muscle strength and mobility. See for information.

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