For the new exerciser (or would-be exerciser):
Pedometer. This simple, clever, inexpensive device is perfect for beginning exercisers, or anyone who needs to add some more motion to their days. Once you calibrate it (this is easy), you just clip it on and head out the door and let the pedometer track every step you take. Research shows that wearing a pedometer can add almost 2,500 steps to your day; suddenly, a walk down the hallway at work, or to the corner store, is part of your exercise program. Some models estimate calorie burn or have other features. Check out Prevention.com, and our story on pedometers and weight loss, for some recommended models.
Estimated cost: $19 and up
Where to find it: Sporting-goods stores, department stores
For the procrastinator:
Gift certificate for a session (or two) with a personal trainer. Tired of your friend, spouse, or sibling always saying, "This year, I'm getting in shape," and then not following through? Empower their best intentions with a personal training session that will give them focus and direction, and hopefully kick-start them into a regular exercise program. Or make a pact with some friends to forgo gifts to each other, and chip in together for a group training session instead.
Estimated cost: $50 and up, depending on number of sessions
Where to find it: The websites of the American College of Sports Medicine and the IDEA Health and Fitness Association can help you find certified trainers in your area.
For the experienced exerciser:
A new activity or sport to try. There’s a tendency for some long-term exercisers to get stuck in a rut: same route, same distance, same workout, same routine. So buy some swim classes for that experienced runner on your list. Sign up your yoga fanatic for a Zumba class. Give the cyclist you live with a chance to try pilates.
Estimated cost: Varies
Where to find it: Check local health clubs, gyms, fitness studios, and community centers.
Cold-weather exercise gear. This time of year, a gift of insulated mittens, gloves, or a hat can make a huge difference in outdoor workouts (especially for exercisers who don't like to spend money on "technical" gear). For suggestions, check out RunnersWorld.com's fall and winter clothing gear review.
Where to find it: Sporting-goods stores; specialized running or cycling stores.
Estimated cost: $15 to $50
For the child who needs a bit more activity:
Cranium Hullabaloo. Think “Twister” for little kids: You spread out different shapes and objects on the floor, push the start button on the console, and the game takes it from there. Directions like “Gallop to a square!” and “Crawl to the broccoli!” will keep kids moving—and laughing—for hours. Meantime, they’ll be learning about shapes, colors, and words. Appropriate for ages 4 and up.
Estimated cost: $25
Where to find it: Toy stores, department stores