6 ways to give the gift of health this holiday season

‘Tis the season to be jolly… and healthy! When you think of the holidays and health, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps it’s all the food you intend on eating with your family. Or finally getting that gym membership you’ve been putting off. Or, maybe you don’t think these two terms go hand-in-hand at all. Well, they can. And they should!

The holiday season is a great time to enjoy time with family and friends, celebrate life, be grateful and take a moment to reflect on what’s important to you. It’s also a time to appreciate the gift of health. As this year ends and the next one begins, we encourage you to think about health and how you can help others make this essential part of life a priority.

Health is described as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” If you could take that sentence, put it in a box and wrap it as a gift to give to someone you love or care about, would you?

Brighten this holiday season by giving the gift of health to loved ones. How? We asked our experts for their ideas on how you can accomplish this and here’s what they had to say:

  1. Together time. Especially for our older population, giving the gift of time and ensuring you schedule dates to see them can bring them a great deal of joy (more than you know). Go pay a visit to your grandparents, uncles or check out nearby nursing homes. Bring along young children or pets (if appropriate) when you visit.
  2. Health-tech gadgets. In an age where everything revolves around technology, this might just be one of the best gifts to give this holiday season. There’s an endless supply of devices on the market that you can give to a person you know who has been concerned about their health. Whether they’ve been experiencing heart palpitations, poor sleep or fatigue, capturing these episodes can help their doctor make a diagnosis. For example, think of a Fitbit, Apple Watch or an AliveCor Kardia heart monitor.
  3. Gym membership or sessions with a trainer. No more excuses! It’s time to make that one stop you’ve been postponing for months. The gym has all the necessary equipment for getting in shape. As we get older, weight training becomes important. But, if you’d rather do cardio, there are plenty of other options. The elliptical, stationary bike and rowing machine mitigate the amount of repetitive forces on the knees that come with long distance running, even on a treadmill. Training sessions, on the other hand, are helpful in that they are an appointment – you have someone expecting you to be there and have allotted a certain amount of time to a given task.
  4. Sign up for a heart-healthy cooking class. This is certainly a more creative option. You can prevent, or even essentially cure, many of the chronic diseases present in society today, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, through appropriate diet.  A heart-healthy cooking class can show people how to make delicious and healthy foods on a budget.
  5. Get your own equipment. Don’t like the gym? Think about purchasing TRX straps, an ab mat or even a bike. These relatively low cost options still can give you a great workout while using just your body weight.
  6. Adopt (not buy) a dog! The benefits of having a pet, especially a dog, are myriad.  There are benefits to blood pressure and stress levels.  From an activity standpoint, a responsible dog owner will make sure his or her pooch gets enough exercise and in turn will get some exercise himself or herself.  In this case, you are improving and saving two lives – yours and your new pal’s!

When thinking of what to get family, friends and loved ones this year, prioritize their wellbeing. You’re providing them with the gift that keeps on giving – good health.


Baran Kilical, MD, cardiologist and electrophysiologist with Anne Arundel Medical Group Cardiology Specialists.

Dimitri Thomas, MD, sports medicine doctor and surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Center Orthopedics.

Lil Banchero, senior director of the Institute for Healthy Aging at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Originally published Dec. 17, 2018. Last updated Nov. 8, 2019.