5 Fitness Gift Ideas for Friends and Family

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5 Fitness Gift Ideas for Friends and Family

Joe Sherlock, ACSM Copywriter |  Nov. 28, 2023
fitness gifts

We’re well into the holiday season, and maybe you’re scrambling to find the perfect gifts for friends and family. Uh oh. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of fitness tools and accessories out there that might fit the bill, and at a range of prices. 

(Of course, discretion is important too — it’s probably best to only give fitness gear to people who are likely to use it. You don’t want to send the wrong message.) 

A crucial question, though, is how useful and/or effective many of these options are. Crazes often burn through the fitness world and fitness-adjacent culture, and the Next Best Thing is regularly a flash in the pan that may or may not provide any actual benefit. You don’t want to be the friend or family member giving out what will be seen next year as a tired fad — or worse, spending your hard-earned money on a gift that doesn’t actually do what it claims to. 

The following five suggestions are drawn from a top 10 holiday fitness gift list compiled by Charles Fountaine, Ph.D., FACSM, published as a sharable resource in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, and provide a little context about each. 

1. Fitness trackers and smart watches

At the high end of the gift-giving hierarchy, there are fitness trackers and smart watches. Wearable tech ranked No. 1 in last year’s ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, and has been in the top three every year since its introduction to the survey in 2016, so it could be a good bet for a special someone who’s interested in logging the details of their workout and resting lives. This is a big investment, of course. And you probably want to know a little bit about what the recipients needs and wants in terms of a data-tracker, so make sure you covertly or overtly get the intel you need before you take the plunge. 

2. Massage gun

A step down in price from wearables are massage guns, aka “percussive massagers.” Even if you haven’t used one, you’ve probably seen them on box store shelves or in infomercials. These are handheld devices with a reciprocating end — sometimes provided with interchangeable attachments — that you can use to massage sore muscles. According to a 2023 systematic literature review, “PT delivered by massage guns can help improve acute muscle strength, explosive muscle strength and flexibility, and reduce experiences of musculoskeletal pain,” though others don’t go so far in their assessment of the devices’ benefits. 

3. Compression sleeves

Used to support joints, compression sleeves are another holiday gift-giving option. There are many products on the market, and we should be careful to distinguish between sleeves and other garments. Research on the effectiveness of these products is mixed — knee sleeves, for example, seem to show some signs of benefit. According to a 2017 literature review, “knee sleeves can effect functional improvements to knee problems. However, further work is needed to confirm this hypothesis, due to the lack of homogeneity and rigor of existing studies.” That said, other compression garments, such as below-knee compression socks, show more mixed results, so it’s important to know exactly what it is you’re buying, and why. 

4. Stretching straps and resistance bands

If compression sleeves don’t fit the bill, consider stretching straps or resistance bands. These can be an affordable option, and are probably familiar to most yoga practitioners and many other fitness enthusiasts. Resistance bands may be particularly beneficial — a 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis found that “resistance training with elastic devices provides similar strength gains when compared to resistance training performed from conventional devices.” Meaning that resistance bands can be a great portable, low-cost training tool.  

5. Socks

Now, this last category is sort of a classic Christmas canard — “Oh no, not socks!” But for fitness enthusiasts, a good pair of socks can be a real blessing. There are many types for many modes of physical activity, and finding the exact right pair that fits the needs of the person you’re buying for will show that you really pay attention to what they do for fun. Hiking? There are socks for that. Skiing? Yep. Olympic lifting or deadlifting? Yep. There are great socks for those too. Don’t count socks out — a nice, cozy pair over the holidays can make all the difference, not just at the gym or on the trail but in front of the fireplace too. 

For more gift ideas, check out Dr. Fountaine’s “Ten Holiday Gift Ideas for the Fitness Enthusiast,” available as a shareable resource from ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal