Gifts in the spirit of exercise

This Christmas, consider getting your loved ones a taste of fun-filled fitness

If you’re wondering why Americans are profoundly overweight, let’s take a look at the way we celebrate holidays. It’s a candy grab at Halloween, gorging at Thanksgiving, and then a month of holiday parties and high-fat snacks at the office.

It’d be great if we actually hiked into the forest to get our tree, or chopped that yule log ourselves. But no, worrying about one’s health and fitness is put off for next year’s resolutions. What do you expect from a holiday whose mascot is a fat guy eating cookies with milk on the biggest night of his life?

It doesn’t take a wise man to figure out that many of the gifts we give and receive don’t exactly promote fitness. (Don’t get me started on eggnog, either.)

Every year, millions of Americans struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, and yet, with the best of intentions, we derail their progress with a box of holiday cookies or a host of other gifts that promote a sedentary lifestyle. This year, why not give the gift of fitness instead?

Sure, I know what you’re thinking. “I’m going to buy my wife a treadmill? Isn’t that just basically calling her fat?”

Well, yes, she might think so. So we asked a number of fitness professionals around town to suggest some fun fitness ideas, from stocking stuffers to extravagant mini-stimulus packages, that are the epitome of the holiday spirit. And they just happen to be good for you, too.

• Sno-park permit, $20: A necessity for the avid or aspiring snowshoer or cross-country skier. A permit allows you to park at sno-parks in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California between Nov. 1 and April 30.

• Daily snowshoe or cross-country ski rental, $15: Turn a loved one on to the thrill of walking or skiing through the pristine snow of the Oregon backcountry. It could turn into a lifelong obsession.

•e_STnSMP3 player with headphones, $50: Music makes pretty much any exercise more fun. Look for a smaller model that will clip easily to a T-shirt or jacket. The iPod Shuffle (pictured) carries about 150 songs in a small plastic clip.

Jump-rope (pictured): $10: Totally old school, but kids love them. Better yet, buy them a pair and show them your old double-dutch routines. “Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around …”

• Hula hoop, $5: For kids of all ages and especially baby boomers. Pair it with the admission fee for a hooping class through Hoop Dazzle (541-312-6910), which can get virtually anybody hooping with style.

* Juggling balls, $3-$5: A set of three 2-inch vinyl juggling balls.

• One month at a fitness club, $30-$50: Great for somebody who’s already a member, or for someone not sure where to go yet. Just call the gym and tell them the name of the person and that you want to pay their next month’s fee. Or get them a session with a personal trainer, $25-$50.

• Exercise class at the Bend Senior Center, $5 single class, $40 monthly pass: Maybe Grandma and Grandpa aren’t up to downhill skiing at Mt. Bachelor, but there are plenty of low-impact exercise class at the Bend Senior Center. Better yet, sign them up for ballroom dancing.

Bosu ball (pictured), $95-$150: A fun way to work on balance, strength and even aerobic conditioning. Consider pairing it with a personal training session so they learn how to use it safely.

• Zumba dance party, $40-$60: For your loved one and a group of his or her closest, dance-crazy friends, this Latin-inspired dance class is sweeping the nation. Check with Juniper Swim & Fitness Center for more details. Or call these local groups: Zumba Fitness (541-610-4598) or Zumba (541-383-1994).

• Lactate threshold testing, $130-$150: For serious athletes — or those who want to be — this fitness testing at Central Oregon Community College and some physical therapy providers will give them the scientific basis for improving their performance in any pursuit.

• GPS unit, $99 to $600: Introduce them to the sport of geocaching, a satellite-guided treasure hunt that will have them out hiking all day. Also great for the backpacker or backcountry enthusiast.

• Golf winter conditioning class, $300: For the golfer that has every club, gadget and wacky golf paraphernalia, sign him or her up for this eight-week training class at the Athletic Club of Bend. Open to nonmembers, the course by Therapeutic Associates (541-382-7890) gets you in shape so you’re ready to hit the links as soon as the snow melts.

• Fitness IOU, $0: Nothing makes exercise more fun than a good partner, whether a friend, your child or mom and dad. Offer to take them skiing, snowshoeing, running — anything that gets them off the couch.