Health Matters: Here's some gift ideas designed to promote healthy living – The State Journal-Register

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Last year we put out a gift guide for living healthy and staying safe during the pandemic. It included yoga mats for stretching and strengthening, bike helmets, lights and reflectors to ensure safety while enjoying the outdoors, motivational water bottles to maintain hydration throughout the day, ergonomic seat cushions to alleviate back aches while working from home, and fingertip pulse oximeters to detect worsening lung and heart conditions. This year we found a few more practical gift options to keep you and your loved ones on track with health and wellness goals. Here’s our updated list. 
The gyms have reopened, but many are frustrated by the choice between indoor mask mandate or inhaling and exhaling in proximity to other perspiring bodies. For others, exercising from home has become a routine. In addition to yoga mats, foam rollers, elastic bands, jump ropes, and dumbbells can work core, flexibility, strength and aerobic training without taking up too much space. A sturdy shelf with baskets can efficiently store the equipment and make the home gym tidy and charming. For those looking for larger spaces to roam, a basketball hoop can turn the driveway into a pickup court, and a portable goal can turn the backyard into a soccer field. 
Previously:Health Matters: Review your health care needs and finances at the end of the year
Several of our co-workers recently purchased Peloton stationary bikes and vowed to compete against one another on the leaderboard. While we caution against making such a capital investment unless you or the gift recipient is committed to the form of exercise long-term, the online community is definitely a source of accountability and motivation. Instead of a large equipment, consider gifting a subscription to streaming fitness classes or workout apps. 
This is one of the best wellness purchases we made this year. This handheld device provides massage deep into the muscles to relieve soreness from exercising as well as sitting and typing. More precise and maneuverable than the foam roller, it targets the exact spot and shakes up the knots by increasing local blood circulation. 
We have to reiterate the importance of drinking water. The creativity and technology developed by the water bottle industry continue to amuse us. In addition to motivational water bottles with encouraging messages, there’re “smart” water bottles that will glow if you haven’t taken a sip in a while, or connect to your phone and wearable devices to send you reminders and track your progress. Other bottles generate UV light to disinfect and purify water, and let you control the temperature via an app. Some even double as a Bluetooth speaker. No matter what floats your boat, you can find the water bottle with the right incentive to quench your thirst throughout the day. 
More:Health Matters: Peripheral neuropathy – losing touch with your body – can be treated
Light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder. “Winter blues” affects as many as 1 in 5 people living in North America. Facing a lightbox producing simulated sunlight for at least 30 minutes each morning can help alleviate the symptoms of sadness, irritability, and low energy. People complain that traditional therapy lamps look too sterile and bleak, reminding them of hospitals. Luckily, there are several newer options made of natural wood that are both stylish and functional. Look for lamps that emit at least 10,000 lux of full spectrum light, are UV free, and have adjustable brightness and color temperature.  
The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on our mental health. Mindfulness cards and cubes provide reminders for us to live in the moment. Subscriptions to meditation apps with guided imagery and breathing exercises build mindfulness, reduce stress, and improve sleep. You can also give membership to therapy apps or websites where one can get professional help at all times of the day. The ease of access and low-stake commitment of these emerging technologies will hopefully empower more people to seek the help they need.
In addition to material gifts, a way to show our love and care for those close to us is to offer them our time, ears and open heart. Create a shared experience or simply spend time together, listen and engage with what’s going on in their lives. 
Qing Yang and Kevin Parker are a married couple and live in Springfield. Dr. Yang received her medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine and completed residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is an anesthesiologist at HSHS Medical Group. Parker has helped formulate and administer public policy at various city and state governments around the country. He is formerly the group chief information officer for education with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology. This column is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The opinions are those of the writers and do not represent the views of their employers.


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