Local Lifestyle

Give the gift of health this Valentine’s Day

by Kate Evans

Tired of buying the same Valentine’s Day gifts for your special someone?  Maybe you could give them the gift of true love by giving them the gift of health, said Stacy Schultz, War Memorial Health registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

People spend a couple hundred dollars on Valentine’s Day on flowers, candy, jewelry or going out to dinner, Schultz said.  Instead you could buy your loved one a fitness activity tracker, line up a dental screening, arrange a wellness check-up or physical, sign up for a gym membership or an introductory fitness or yoga class.

“The real gift is teaching someone to be healthy. It will save you a lot of money in the long run,” Schultz said.

Fitness trackers

Schultz loves the fitness tracker she has.  She said in general most fitness devices will track your steps and your exercise.  You can set a goal of 10,000 steps, which is five miles, or 2,000 steps to start out.

Newer devices track your heart rate.  Schultz said she pays close attention to that as you need to get your heart rate up when you exercise.

Some fitness trackers will send you notifications when you haven’t moved, which Schultz likes.  Not moving is hard on your back, she said.  You can set the devices to get 250 steps an hour and it will notify you to get moving when you haven’t done that.

Some fitness trackers will send you a stress score based on your heart rate and whether you feel calm, neutral, stressed or very stressed.  Schultz said it’s amazing how accurate it is.  Other devices will also send you sleep scores.

The devices also track your weight, which you manually enter, your food and water intake, number of steps you go up or the energy you’ve burned in calories. All of these are options you can choose in your device if available, she said.

Some devices will let you watch mindfulness or deep breathing videos or yoga instruction. Others will track your heart rate variability and arrhythmias, Schultz noted. Some have A-Fib (atrial fibrillation) trackers.

“It can save your life,” Schultz said.

Some devices have a fall protection feature, too.  The device will call you to ask if you’re okay after you’ve fallen and will send emergency medical services if you’re not okay, she said.

A fitness tracker can point you in directions of health improvement and help you understand what you need to cut back on, Schultz said.

Cell phones also have apps that track your health-some phones come with free health apps already installed.  Other cell phone apps may have a cost, but it could be cheaper than a fitness tracker device.

Schultz said her goal is to get people thinking outside the norm for a Valentine’s Day gift to something that encourages health.

Instead of giving a box of candy or chocolates, try some frozen yogurt bites, mini dark chocolates or handmade, homemade lower-in-sugar items made for your special someone.

Other healthy gifts

Some healthy Valentine’s Day gifts can be inexpensive such as a healthy cookbook, weights, resistance bands, yoga mats or exercise outfits.   Comfy slippers, a warm blanket to cuddle with while watching TV or a hooded jacket to wear while walking the dog could make the grade.

Other gift ideas could include a blood pressure monitor, an oximeter that measures your pulse and blood oxygen, a fruit and vegetable gift basket or making a healthy Valentine’s Day dinner.

Another gadget that Schultz recommends is a bidet, which cleans your bottom areas that a lot of people can’t reach.  She said research shows they prevent urinary tract infections and chapped skin. A good quality bidet can be found online for a reasonable price.

Another gift you can give is the gift of art.  This is an artsy community with many artists with wares for sale, Schultz said. You could also give the gift of a flower or plant that you grew yourself or a free Yoga class at the Ice House or other special classes.  Individualize for the special person in your life.

Instead of eating out or bringing home takeout meals, you could try making healthy recipes at home for your Valentine’s Day dinner.  Schultz said that when people eat out, they tend to eat larger portions, drink sugary drinks, have desserts and they wind up eating 1500-2000 calories-double the calories of a regular meal at home. Mindless eating happens a lot.

“Turn the TV off.  Have a conversation with the person you love,” Schultz said.

Jewelry is the number one gift purchased for Valentine’s Day, followed by flowers and food, Schultz said.

“Jewelry is nice to look at but it’s not really improving your health,” Schultz said.

Spending money on Valentine’s Day for wellness or health for your loved one is a true gift of love and caring.   Health doesn’t always mean physical health.  It can also refer to mental health, emotional health or spiritual health.

You could buy them a CD of their favorite artist’s music to relax to or a powerhouse dance CD to rock out to while they exercise.  You could take them for a scenic drive in the country, watch a good movie together or go for a walk together.

The list of possible gifts for Valentine’s Day is endless, but whatever you choose to give your special someone, give it with lots of love and wishes for their best health.