Family Health: Healthy gifts keep on giving

The ideal Christmas gift is something that not only makes the person’s eyes light up, but also has staying power. That’s what happens when you give the gift of health. The recipient doesn’t have to be athletic or outdoorsy to benefit, and the gift never goes out of style.

These options offer something for everyone on your list:

  • A massage. A relaxing session with a massage therapist can ease sore muscles, help alleviate headaches, lower stress and help people sleep. Massage practitioners advertise in the phone book, and massage is often offered at health clubs. A gift certificate for a massage can be for a half hour, an hour or longer.
  • A community-supported agriculture membership. CSAs offer fresh food from local farms throughout the growing season. Members get a variety of vegetables, usually to be picked up weekly at a designated location. The quantity can be quite large, so if the gift is for one person consider giving a half membership.
  • Ski or snowboard lessons. Montana Snowbowl, Lost Trail Powder Mountain and Lookout Pass ski areas offer lessons for kids and adults. To find out about cross-country skiing lessons, visit the Missoula Nordic Ski Club at Of course, you could also give new skis or a snowboard.
  • A healthy-foods cookbook. Check local bookstores for cookbooks with healthy recipes. You can find examples at or
  • Beneficial (and beautiful) plants. The most obvious is aloe vera, which can help heal skin injuries. But plants also clean the air and some remove more than their share of indoor pollutants. That includes peace lilies, ivies, ficus, African violets and Christmas cactus. And an indoor herb garden can encourage healthy, home-cooked meals – you can find kits online and at local nurseries. Or make your own by planting rosemary, bay or basil – also available at local nurseries – in a pot.
  • A gym membership. Missoula has at least 10 gyms or fitness centers, some with pools. Memberships often include classes aimed at specific groups, such as seniors, moms-to-be and kids. To get someone started, consider giving a session with a personal trainer.
  • Exercise equipment. Something as simple as a pedometer can give people the motivation they need to be more active. Go a step up with an activity tracker like the Fitbit, which monitors things like steps taken, distance traveled and calories burned. Or you could give a gift certificate for new running shoes, a set of free weights or elastic exercise bands. If you’re considering giving home exercise equipment such as treadmills or rowing machines, check out buying advice from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons at Type “exercise equipment” into the search field.
  • Sunscreen clothing. While all clothes help protect skin from sun damage, some specialized clothing is designed to block more of the cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen clothing is classified with an ultraviolet protection factor rating between 15 and 50, and is a good choice for people with sensitive skin.

Some of these healthy gifts may seem just right for you as well as the folks on your Christmas list. If so, don’t hesitate to give yourself the gift of health.

Shawn Lake writes for Community Medical Center.