The Health & Fitness holiday gift guide.

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, you are not alone. As of last week, the average shopper still has half of their gift buying left to do. The good news is that there is still time to pick out perfect gifts for your friends and family, including gifts that will help them meet their health and fitness New Year’s resolutions.

There are many good gifts that can help people get started on their exercise or weight loss programs. Gift guides including gadgets, apps, clothing, and other gear, like this one from Greatist.com. Many of these tools would no doubt be useful for getting people motivated, providing feedback, and even some healthy competition through social networking.

But these are not the things that people really need to begin and be successful making diet and activity changes. After all, no one ever quit an exercise program or failed at losing weight because they didn’t have the right nutrition app or the latest activity tracker. The real reason people struggle is because of factors like time and support from family and friends in the real, not virtual, world.

In my Health & Fitness column this week in the Aiken Standard  I provide a practical gift guide. These are the things you can give your friends or family members to really help them make their healthy lifestyle changes:

1. Time. The most common reason that people quit an exercise program or struggle with weight loss is because of time. That includes time to exercise, obviously. But it also includes time to plan, shop for, and prepare healthy meals and snacks. This year, give the gift of time. Commit to helping your friend or family member plan time to focus on their program and dedicate yourself to taking on some responsibilities to help them do that.

2. Help. In addition to helping find time, you should commit to actually doing things to facilitate your friend or family member’s health improvement program. Taking on chores and projects around the house, picking up the kids after school, and helping with shopping and cooking are examples of things you can do.

3. Support. Anyone who makes a major lifestyle change needs the support of others to be successful. Your role can be to provide encouragement, ask about progress, and take your friend’s program into account when planning meals and other activities together. You should also be ready to provide a gentle (or not-so-gentle) nudge when you see them getting off track.

4. A buddy. People who take on an exercise program with others are more likely to stick with it and be successful. So get involved with your friend or family member. Going for a walk together during a break at work or developing a healthy eating plan as a family is an excellent way to play along. Chances are, these healthy changes will benefit you, too.

So, if you really want to help someone in your life make lasting healthy changes, use the remaining shopping days to come up with a plan. Leave the stress of shopping to everyone else!

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