Fitness tech—it's a real thing
You probably have at least one health nut or fitness fanatic on your holiday shopping list this year (I have five). Instead of gifting them the usual stuff—workout gear, water bottles, and gift certificates to The Sports Authority—why not pick up a cool, high-tech gift such as the Striiv smart pedometer or the new Jawbone UP wristband?
Fitness tech has blossomed over the past year, and there is now an abundance of affordable workout- and health-related gear that will make useful, welcome gifts.
Striiv Smart Pedometer
Let’s start out with something pretty simple: the Striiv Smart Pedometer. This small white gadget is great for just about anyone, no matter what their fitness level. The Striiv tracks steps, stairs (though not as accurately on StairMaster and elliptical machines), distance, and calories. The Striiv also has a unique motivation system that inspires users to get moving: Steps are currency, so the more you walk, the more you power the Striiv’s city-building game, MyLand. Accumulating steps also lets you donate to charity and win challenges.
The Striiv Smart Pedometer makes an excellent gift for people who need a little motivation to get up and move throughout the day, such as office workers.
Great for: walkers, runners, casual health/fitness enthusiasts
Not great for: hardcore athletes, people who use a StairMaster or elliptical machine
Price: $100, Striiv
Fitbit Zip wireless activity tracker
The Fitbit Zip is another so-called smart pedometer option. Unlike the Striiv, however, the Zip isn’t a stand-alone device—it works in conjunction with an app on your iOS device or your computer. This small, cute gadget comes in a variety of colors: blue, magenta, white, black, and lime green. The Zip tracks steps, distance, and calories, but does not track stairs climbed.
The Zip is a great, affordable device for anyone who’s got an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and who wants to track their movement throughout the day.
Great for: walkers, joggers, office workers
Not great for: hardcore athletes, stair climbers, people without an iOS device
Price: $60, Fitbit
The Nike+ FuelBand offers a different design concept: Unlike the aforementioned smart pedometers, which clip onto your clothing, this pedometer/activity tracker is a small, rubbery wristband. The FuelBand uses an accelerometer to track steps and calories, as well as NikeFuel points earned. NikeFuel points are sort of like the Striiv’s motivation feature—the more you earn, the more trophies and awards you unlock.
The FuelBand is more expensive than the Striiv and the Fitbit Zip, but it also comes with a more connected ecosystem. The FuelBand is supported by several Nike products, including an iPhone app and even a training app for the Xbox 360 with Kinect.
Great for: cross-trainers, runners, Nike lovers
Not great for: hardcore athletes, weight lifters, people without an iOS device
Price: $149, Nike
Jawbone’s UP is similar to the Nike+ FuelBand, in that it’s a wristband. However, it’s more of a lifestyle device than the FuelBand: The UP tracks all activity, including your sleep patterns. The UP syncs with an iOS app (compatible with iOS 5.1 or higher) to help you track activity, sleep, food/eating habits, and moods. The UP also features a smart alarm system that wakes you up when you’re at the optimum point in your sleep cycle.
The UP is great for anyone with an iOS device, but it’s especially good for general health nuts who want to be able to track everything from steps and calories to food and sleep.
Great for: general health nuts
Not great for: hardcore athletes, weight lifters
Price: $130, Jawbone
AfterShokz Mobile bone conduction headphones
AfterShokz Mobile bone conduction headphones are a fantastic, unique gift for the marathon runner in your life. AfterShokz headphones use bone conduction technology to channel music through your cheekbones to your inner ear. Because nothing covers your ear (or is wedged inside your ear), this means that you can still hear everything around you. Outdoor joggers and cyclists will recognize the value here: You can run or bike safely without having to worry about getting hit by a car that you didn’t hear coming.
AfterShokz Mobile headphones have a built-in microphone and two-button remote, so you can take phone calls and change songs while jogging. These headphones aren’t ideal for indoor athletes, because the bone conduction technology can be loud and annoying to the people around you.
Great for: outdoor runners, cyclists
Not great for: indoor athletes
Price: $60, AfterShokz
The Fitbit Aria is perfect for the weight watcher on your gift list. This smart scale can measure weight, body fat percentage, and BMI. It also has built-in Wi-Fi, so it can wirelessly connect to the Internet to upload the data to Fitbit’s website. This lets you track your weight over time, as well as input your calorie intake and set weight goals.
The Aria supports up to eight individual profiles, so it’s a useful gift for the whole family
Great for: weight watchers
Not great for: people who are obsessed with weight
Price: $130, Fitbit
The Motorola MotoActv wristband is more than just a smart pedometer—this watch-like device has built-in GPS, a built-in smart MP3 player, and a heart rate monitor. So while the MotoActv tracks stats such as distance, speed, and calories burned, it also tracks other activities such as golf and cycling. The built-in smart MP3 player measures your performance during different songs to determine which songs are most inspiring. Then it creates a customized workout track designed to push you to work out even harder.
The MotoActv wristband is great for people who need more-advanced fitness tracking than a smart pedometer can offer. The heart rate monitor, GPS, and smart MP3 player are all great features for people who work out regularly.
Great for: people who work out regularly, golfers, cyclists
Not great for: people who just want a simple pedometer
Price: $150, Motorola
Jaybird SB2 Sportsband Bluetooth headphones
Jaybird’s SB2 Sportsband Bluetooth headphones are stylish wireless headphones with a lifetime warranty against sweat. These sports-oriented over-ear headphones feature a rubberized grip (so they stay put against your head) and moisture-sealed controls, and are compatible with any smartphone or other device that has Bluetooth 2.0 or higher.
The SB2 Sportsband headphones will make a great gift for weight lifters, since they’re wireless—anyone who lifts weights knows that wires are pretty much your worst enemy when you’re trying to change plates.
Great for: runners, weight lifters, people who hate wires
Not great for: people who have old-school MP3 players
Price: $99, Jaybird
Zeo Sleep Manager Pro
Sleep—getting enough of it, that is—is one of the most important elements of health and fitness. The Zeo Sleep Manager Pro is a terrific gift for health nuts who are having trouble sleeping. The Zeo Pro is a wireless headband that you wear when you go to sleep. It tracks your REM and deep sleep and connects to a smartphone app (iOS and Android) to help you see how much “real” sleep you’re getting. The app offers personalized advice based on your sleeping patterns, so you can tweak your lifestyle to (hopefully) get a better night’s rest.
The Zeo Pro does require that the user wear the headband to sleep, so first check to see if your recipient is particularly picky about how they sleep and what they wear to bed.
Great for: people with sleeping issues
Not great for: people who can’t sleep with things on their head
Price: $99, Zeo
TrekDesk treadmill desk
First it was exercise balls, then it was standing desks, and now treadmill desks are the hot office accessory. Treadmills with desks built-in can cost upwards of $2500, but TrekDesk makes the treadmill-desk dream a little more affordable. It features a large work surface, is height adjustable, and has a metal base. It fits onto most treadmills, according to the manufacturer, and even has a cup holder so that you can stay hydrated.
The TrekDesk is just a desk—not a treadmill—so it’s a good gift for someone who already has a treadmill (and a home office).
Great for: people who work at a desk and already have a treadmill
Not great for: people who hate walking and/or lack a treadmill
Price: $479, TrekDesk