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Healthy Holiday Gifts: The Dynamic Dozen

12 great presents for a better mind and body

  • Healthy Holiday Gifts Winter Wellness
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    Winter Wellness Wonderland

    En español l Good health is priceless, but great gifts to help achieve or keep it can fit your budget. Consider our picks. Prices, unless otherwise stated, start around $15 and reflect recent postings. Check for seasonal sales; prices and availability are subject to change.

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  • Alarm clock displaying 7:00, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    1. Sunrise Clocks

    Is waking up a downer for the Rip Van Winkle on your list? Besides an irritable start to the day, an abrupt rise with the jolting noise of traditional alarm clocks can raise blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels, according to researchers. So-called sunrise clocks or “wake-up lights” emit gradually increasing light to mimic a natural sunrise while playing either your favorite radio station or natural sounds such as chirping birds, ocean waves or wind chimes. Top customer-recommended models on Amazon include the Philips Wake-Up Light ($140), Verilux Rise & Shine Natural Wake-Up Light ($100) and BioBrite SunRise Clock with Sleep Sounds ($120).

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  • Couple sleeping, sound machine, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    2. Sleep Aids

    For zzz’s that please, sound machines block out background noise with soothing sounds of nature; find several HoMedics models for $50 or less at Bed Bath & Beyond. Pillows with bamboo covers provide cooler slumber; Amazon and sell several with memory foam for under $80. Infused with the calming scent of lavender, the Natura World Lavender Scented Pillow costs $73 at Amazon.

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  • Deep muscle massage, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    3. Foam Rollers

    Rolling on these cylinders can hurt like the dickens, but these workout aids improve range of motion and can help sore or injured muscles recover quicker. Color often indicates foam density: lighter means softer (and less pain) and is the usual recommendation for newbies; darker color foam tends to be firmer and hold its shape longer. For hard-core rollers, consider those with spikes or ridges — such as the Grid by Trigger Point ($43 at, STI’s Compact RumbleRoller or MuuvSport’s Stealth Align ($45 each at

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  • Fitness trackers, Woman wears bracelets, Healthy Holiday Gifts
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    4. Activity Trackers

    Heart-smart and handy, these newfangled devices track heart rate, calorie intake and sleep, as well as steps taken. In addition to that useful data, they provide incentive to stay healthy and possibly recover faster following surgery, studies suggest. Consumer Reports’ best bets include the FitBit One ($100), Nike+ FuelBand ($174) and Up by Jawbone ($130). Prefer to go old-school? For about $30, recommended pedometers include Mio Trace Acc-Tek, Omron GOsmart Pocket HJ-112 and Yamax Digi-Walker CW-701.

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  • Woman plays guitar on the grass, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    5. Musical Instruments

    Whether it’s strumming strings, banging skins, blowing brass or tickling ivories, studies show that playing a musical instrument may reduce age-related mental decline. Although the greatest impact comes when lessons start in childhood, researchers say even “new” older musicians benefit from lower blood pressure and stress, as well as stronger immunity. Find deals on all types of instruments at, and brick-and-mortar stores. Craigslist and eBay are go-to places for used gear.

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  • Blood pressure monitors, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    6. Blood Pressure Monitors

    They may not be the most romantic gift but are certainly one for the heart: For those with borderline or diagnosed high blood pressure, averaging the results from multiple readings taken at home provides more accurate measurements than what doctors get during exams. For the techies in your life, check out the monitoring system by iHealth that connects with and tracks on iPods, iPhones and iPads ($100), and the wireless blood-pressure monitor by Withings that sends readings to iPhones, Androids or tablets ($130). For traditional wrist-cuff blood pressure monitors, Consumer Reports recommends Omron 7 Series BP652 ($43-$69), Rite Aid’s Deluxe Automatic ($60) and ReliOn BP300W ($50 at Walmart). Top-rated arm monitors include CVS’ Premium BP3MV1 ($66) and Omron 10 Series BP785 ($12-$117).

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  • Vegetable blender, kitchen equipment, Healthy Holiday Gifts

    7. Veggie Blenders

    The idea of eating all the fruits and vegetables recommended daily may be tough to swallow; drinking them in easy-to-make smoothies and homemade soups is not. While you can spend a small fortune on some top models, high marks go to the Ninja Professional NJ600 ($93) or Nutri Ninja Pro ($99), NutriBullet NBR-12 ($90) and Waring Pro PBB225 ($100 and up).

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  • Fern in a white vase, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    8. Houseplants

    Tropical houseplants — ideally, at least two per room — help clean indoor air by absorbing toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene and solvents that are emitted from furniture, carpeting and household products. Studies find the best air-purifying plants include areca and lady palms, bamboo, ferns, spider and rubber plants, and spathiphyllum (peace lily). For maximum effect, cover the soil with about an inch of aquarium gravel to facilitate drainage when watered.

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  • Planet fitness gym storefront, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    9. Yoga/Gym Memberships

    Look for deals and trial membership offers, or check out Planet Fitness and Youfit for convenience at $10 a month. Find local yoga classes at For $85, the American Health and Fitness Alliance sells a passbook to access top health clubs and specialized Pilates and yoga studios in New York and other cities.

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  • Food thermometer for the grill, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    10. Kitchen Gadgets

    For a healthier belly, try this duo: kitchen scales to precisely measure ingredients and a meat thermometer for premium taste and protection against E. coli and salmonella. Top-selling scales include Ozeri’s Pronto Digital Multifunction and Pro Digital models, American Weigh Scales Digital Pocket Scale and the Smart Weigh Digital Pro — all for around $15. Among meat thermometers costing $80 or less, Consumer Reports recommends the Oregon Scientific AW131 ($45), iGrill Mini Bluetooth ($40), CDN ProAccurate ($18) and the ThermoWorks Thermapen ($80).

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  • Cooking Books, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    11. Healthy-Food Cookbooks

    Enjoy more home-cooked meals and you’ll likely be healthier and consume fewer calories, finds a new Johns Hopkins University study. Consider Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less ($21) by dietitian and Food Network star Ellie Krieger; How to Cook Everything Fast ($21) by New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman; or any cookbook by Ina Garten, including her Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust ($21). And don’t forget cookbooks from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, including a popular joint effort: the Diabetes & Heart Healthy Cookbook ($14).

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  • People blocks, colorful blocks, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide
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    12. Hands-On Puzzles

    Puzzled over what dementia defense you can offer to those who don’t crave crosswords or savor Sudoku, or are bored with board games? For similar brain-boosting and problem-solving benefits, Cubebot is cooler (and classier) than a Rubik’s Cube; medium-sized models cost $35 at Sharper Image. Find any number of “disentanglement” puzzles made of wood or metal for less than $25 at Amazon or websites such as

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