Plenty of people will ring in the new year with a resolution of better health. If any of them are on your shopping list, why not give them a jump-start with a healthy holiday gift? Here are the MSNBC.com health editors' top picks:
A sun-less tan
For sun worshipers, consider giving the gift of an airbrush tan. Popularized by the Fab Five on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," airbrush tanning is more convenient than goopy self-tanning lotions that often leave tell-tale streaks and blotches. And it’s more foolproof than the automatic spray-tan showers in which you pose in different Charlie’s Angels positions while being drenched in a tanning mist.
Using an “airbrush wand,” essentially an air compressor, a technician sprays a fine mist of tanning solution evenly over your body, taking care not to miss any spots or to overdo it. The color and intensity can be adjusted, making your tan more realistic-looking. The tan lasts about seven to 10 days and, for the most part, fades naturally. Prices generally start around $35 for one session at a salon or spa. -- Molly Masland
Everybody dance now
Unlike typical video games, Dance Dance Revolution will get you out of your chair and burning calories. DDR started as an arcade game but it’s also available for home use and has turned into a dance fitness craze for the under-18 crowd.
Designed to get your feet moving, it can be a good cardio workout for teens and adults, too. Made for most video game systems, including Xbox and Playstation, DDR features a 3-foot-square padded step mat that plugs into the TV player. It can be as slow and simple or fast and complex as you want. Players try to match arrows on the pad with step patterns on the screen while the booming soundtrack plays pop hits ranging from high-speed techno to K.C. and the Sunshine Band and Jessica Simpson. In the workout mode, players enter their weight and height for an estimate of how many calories have been burned after each song. The newer Extreme version allows players to customize dance moves.
The game comes packaged with a dance pad ($50 to $70) or you can buy the pads ($30) and game ($40) separately. With two pads players can show off their fancy footwork in a side-by-side dance-off. -- Jane Weaver
Got a tired, stressed-out person on your list? Consider a gift certificate for a trip to the spa. But instead of the usual facial or massage, try something a little different –- an exotic variation on the familiar -– and give them an experience they’ll remember for years. How about a green tea body wrap, or a massage with hot stones and a tuning fork? Sounds a little strange? Well, it is, but it’s relaxing and definitely memorable.
Many of the spa services these days sound more like dishes served in five-star restaurant and might also make a good gift for the gourmet cook in your life. For instance, at Bliss 49 in New York City, spa goers can receive a “carrot-and-sesame body buff.” During the 90-minute service, clients are rubbed down in carrot mulch and hot oil, then drizzled with warm milk and honey before being scrubbed with sesame seeds and sea salt.
Not to be outdone, the Mandara Spa in Las Vegas offers a lime and ginger salt glow in which clients are first rubbed in warm oil, then “polished” with a blend of flowers and herbs. Alternatively, customers at Mandara can order the coconut rub and milk wrap, in which they are scrubbed with coconut, then soaked in a milk bath before being wrapped in foil.
Prices for these “gourmet” spa services start around $60 and quickly go up. -- M.M.
A wellness coach
In past years we’ve recommended purchasing a session or two with a personal trainer for people on your shopping list who are looking for some help with their fitness plan. And while that’s always a great gift idea, this year we’re also going to suggest another type of coach who can address a broader range of health concerns.
Trained to help with issues ranging from too much stress and no time to exercise to bad diet and bad habits like smoking, wellness coaches work with clients to identify hurdles to their goals. Then the coach and client, usually communicating over the phone, devise a plan to achieve those goals. So for people who think they're too busy to exercise, for instance, a wellness coach can help them streamline their schedules and better manage their priorities. For junk-food junkies, a coach can help them learn about healthier food choices and ways to sidestep the snack machine.
As with personal training, the cost of wellness coaching can vary widely from about $35 to over $100 per half hour, and coaches may require a commitment to multiple sessions. Two popular coaching groups are Wellcoaches and Coach U.
-- Jacqueline Stenson
One for the heart
Worried about aging parents? Someone you love suffering from heart disease? The Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator can deliver a life-saving jolt to someone in sudden cardiac arrest.
Earlier this year the device, which essentially provides the same shock a patient would receive in an emergency room, became the first heart-starting device approved by the FDA for sale over the counter.
Fewer than one in 20 people survives sudden cardiac arrest, primarily because they aren’t treated in time. But when the HeartStart is used within five minutes of the arrest, half of patients survive, according to the company.
About the size of a hardback book and weighing 3.3 pounds, HeartStart can be used without a prescription on adults and children over age 8 and weighing 55 pounds or more. The easy-to-use device analyzes a patient’s heart rhythm and only delivers a shock if needed. Voice instructions guide the user through the process. It will also coach a user through the steps of CPR.
Price is $1,495, but pricing programs are available for about $99 a month. -- J.W.
Walking the walk
Pedometers aren’t fancy new fitness gadgets, but they are getting a lot of buzz lately from health professionals promoting 10,000 steps a day. That's too much to count on your own, of course, which is why the pedometers come in handy.
The devices simply clip on to your waistband and count your steps. Experts recommend aiming for 10,000 steps daily, because that roughly equals the 30 minutes of moderate exercise that public health officials endorse for good health.
Simple models such as some in the Digi-Walker series sell for under $30, making them a great stocking stuffer. -- J.S.