If you are considering buying a fitness or health gift this holiday season for a loved one, there are a number of issues to be aware of.
First, giving an unsolicited fitness or weight loss gift might make the receiver feel bad.
Make sure they have a product like this on their list, otherwise it could make for an unpleasant holiday.
Second, whatever the gift, it would be great if the health product actually worked and does what it claims to do.
And finally, even if the product is effective, the loved one has to use it to get a benefit.
Let’s start with a list of potential gift ideas and find out which ones are effective and which are not. I won’t list brand names, but instead discuss categories of device.
There are many products being sold that are fantastic for getting in shape. Some are expensive (treadmills, stair-climbers) and other are less so (dumbells, sandbells, tubing), but the receiver of the gift has to be motivated to use it and has to stick with it for a long time.
If you are wondering if, for example, a rowing machine is better than a treadmill, these machines all can give a great workout, if used properly, and any difference in health benefits between them is negligible.
There are also a number of products being sold which have no beneficial effect at all.
Magnets are usually sold as wrist-bands, blankets, mattresses and creams that claim to improve blood flow, increase energy level and any number of other things (including deplorably, curing cancer).
Credible studies in the past have shown no benefit or changes to the body by using magnets. The magnetic field of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines are many, many times stronger than the small magnets in these products, but do not have any of these purported benefits on the body.
If they did dramatically affect the body, MRIs would not be used as a diagnostic tool.
The same goes for other similar products like volcanic rock worn as a pendant or bracelet – no demonstrated effect at all.
The test that midway salesmen use to supposedly ‘prove’ that these objects improve your balance is a simple, well-known parlour trick that anyone can learn to dupe an unsuspecting person into believing it works.
Devices for producing ‘ionized’ water are supposed to improve a whole variety of health concerns by supposedly increasing the pH the water you drink. The reason that these devices don’t work would fill pages – don’t be swayed by pseudoscientific jargon the advertisers use. First of all, you can’t ionize water just by electricity – you need to add molecules like sodium, calcium and magnesium. Pure water, which is neither acidic nor alkaline, is non-conductive with electricity.
Second, even if you could create alkaline water to drink, the extremely acidic gastric juices in the stomach would instantly neutralize any alkalinity. Besides, your body maintains a tight acid/base balance throughout.
Devices that claim to reduce your waist-line by wearing an electrical muscle stimulator or by abdominal exercise devices also have no demonstrable benefit in the research literature.
Don’t waste your money.
There are many software and electronic devices such as heart-rate monitors and pedometers out there which are generally fine unless they are making outlandish claims.
And remember, any product has to be used to be effective. A treadmill can be an expensive clothes hanger or storage unit.
Also, consider that these expensive devices require maintenance. A gym membership will allow you to work out and leave the maintenance to someone else.
Kerry Senchyna holds a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and is owner of West Coast Kinesiology in