12 Great Ways to Give the Gift of Fitness for $40 or Less
Whether you're holiday shopping for a lifelong fitness enthusiast or someone who has only just decided to get in shape, consider yourself lucky: Countless gadgets and gizmos are available for people pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Not one of the dozen gifts on this list costs more than $40 and half of them will run you $20 or less. All are highly rated by online reviewers.
Related: 50 Unique Holiday Gift Ideas Under $50 for Everyone
The Garmin Vivofit is a great entry-level fitness tracker from a reputable brand. It comes in a range of colors and features a "move bar" that encourages users to stay active through the day. The device, which can go for more than a year without needing a battery change, develops personalized daily goals based on the user's activity level. The waterproof, 24/7 wearable Vivofit lets users count calories, record calories burned, and monitor sleep during the night.
Related: Best Cheap Fitness Trackers
There are probably more contraptions and gimmicks dedicated to the abs than to any other body part. From rockers to vibrating belts, they promise an effortless path to the elusive six-pack. When it comes to developing a powerful core, however, there is no need to reinvent the wheel -- literally in this case. Experts at Muscle & Fitness and elsewhere agree on the effectiveness of ab rollers. Full rollouts engage the entire core, including the abs, obliques, and upper back, as well as the arms, legs, and shoulders. A simple, compact, and cheap tool like the Readaeer ab roller, which comes with a kneepad, produces results when used with consistent effort.
Exercise balls, also called stability balls or Swiss balls, have become wildly popular among trainers, athletes, coaches, and fitness enthusiasts. Exercise balls force the user to call on the core and other stabilizer muscles to keep the body anchored. Bodybuilding.com lists nearly 20 exercises that incorporate exercise balls. This gym-quality exercise ball comes with an air pump and plug-removal tool, and is slip- and burst-resistant. You can score a small size for less than $20 or pay up to $30 for the largest size. Though less than 2 millimeters thick, it can tolerate a ton of weight. It also comes in range of colors.
Help fitness buffs track their progress, keep records, and assess the effectiveness of routines with a journal -- but not just any journal. The Fitlosophy Fitbook features a 12-week goal-setting page and space dedicated to before and after measurements. Weekly planning pages, food logs, and reward-driven wrap-up pages let users see their fitness campaigns unfold from start to finish. The Fitbook includes an app download, a pen, a page-marking strap, and a sleeve for gym membership cards or workout notes.
Even people who work out hard for an hour every day still have 23 hours to ruin all their hard work by eating poorly. According to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, people who plan and prepare meals at home enjoy better overall fitness. This set of seven lidded containers lets users prepare and store food for every day of the week. The containers are reusable, BPA-free, stackable, leak-resistant, microwaveable, dishwasher safe, and big enough to hold 28 ounces of fuel to drive a workout routine. The set also comes with a nutrition e-book.
The hardest part of any new exercise regimen is getting started. The web provides an avalanche of information, misinformation, and pseudoscience. For the novice, simply knowing where to start can be harder than the workout itself. A "Fitness for Beginners" video by Daniel Aldridge, a respected personal trainer and nutrition specialist, is a simple, easily digestible tutorial for people who are just starting out. He outlines the basics of nutrition and the importance of warming up, and he goes over a few simple but effective bodyweight and dumbbell workout routines.
A good yoga mat is, of course, good for yoga. But it's also perfect for Pilates, core work, warming up, bodyweight exercises, stretching, and meditation. This 71-by-24-inch mat rolls up neatly with an integrated strap for transport. Made with a half inch of dense and durable, energy-absorbing foam, its textured grip sticks to the floor, and its nonporous surface is hypoallergenic and easy to clean.
If music gets your favorite fitness enthusiast in the zone, a good pair of wireless headphones will be a welcome gift -- especially for activities where cords get in the way. Sweat-proof, noise-canceling XR100 earbuds retail for $170, but you can pick them up for less than $40 on Amazon, Experts at Headphones Lab rate the Bluetooth earbuds 4 stars out of 5 based on a comparison with headphones in a much higher price tier.
One of the best ways to lose weight may be to put on some extra weight. The Tone Fitness weighted vest evenly distributes 12 extra pounds to the wearer's body, making pullups, situps, pushups, running, and walking far more intense and productive. With a few extra pounds, both strength and aerobic exercises become more challenging and produce gains faster. The vest is made of comfortable neoprene, and it features a pocket for a phone or music player. It also has reflective stripes for safety outside.
Anyone who has ever seen the physique of an avid cyclist knows that it's possible to pedal your way to fitness. Exercise bikes, however, are pricey and bulky. The Stamina InStride Folding Cycle changes all that. It folds up to about the size of a shoebox for easy storage or portability to the office or hotel. Users can sit in a chair and pedal with their feet or place the InStride on a desk and work the upper body by pedaling with their hands. In reviewing the machine, the Inside Trainer comments on the minimal assembly and says the cycle can improve bone strength and cholesterol levels while increasing metabolism, improving digestion, and eventually reducing weight.
Because step workouts proved to benefit cardiovascular health, joint mobility, physical endurance, and strength, they -- unlike so many '80s fads -- never went out of vogue. A high-quality aerobic step opens up a new world of exercise videos and cardio routines. The Best Choice step features three adjustable height settings (4-inch, 6-inch, and 8-inch) for a variety of exercises and fitness levels.
Pullups are grueling compound exercises that leverage nothing more than gravity and body mass. The ultimate test of upper-body strength, pullups are part of the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test. Pullups can be done on any bar, but alternating hand positions targets different muscle groups and allows pullup enthusiasts to bust through plateaus. The ProSource Multi-Grip Pullup Bar fits in any doorway with simple installation. Twelve grips on different handles allow for close-grip, wide-grip, and hammer-grip pullups and several variations in between. The bar is made from high-grade steel and supports up to 300 pounds.