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Giving the Gift of Health 101

Fast Food Image Gallery These delicious, greasy cheeseburgers should be kept to a minimum if you want a healthier lifestyle. Check out these fast food pictures.

It sounds like a greeting card, but health really is a gift. Whether you want to live a healthier lifestyle yourself or want to encourage healthier habits in others, there are some steps you can take now to get and stay on the right track.

Out With the Bad

Good health isn't a right; you have to work for it. What you eat and how you conduct your life every day contributes to the type of health you will enjoy now and for years to come. The best way to start building a more healthful future is to start curtailing bad habits today. If you or someone you love smokes, is overweight or hasn't seen a doctor in a long time, you can change their future for the better and potentially even save their lives by getting them to take personal responsibility for their physical future. This can be a challenging goal, but the potential reward is worth some hassle. Here's how to begin:

  • Visit the doctor -- Seeing a medical professional is the first step in getting vital screenings for potentially life threatening conditions like high blood pressure, some cancers and diabetes. Offer to take someone you know to the doctor, and be on the lookout for free local medical screenings if access to routine medical care is a problem.
  • Stop smoking -- The American Cancer Society projects that half of Americans who smoke will eventually die as a result of the habit. From hypnosis to prescription stop-smoking aids, there are resources available that will make quitting easier than it was even five years ago. Smokers have a better chance of quitting with support and encouragement, so become a stop-smoking cheerleader for someone you love [source: American Cancer Society].
  • Start moving -- Take your favorite couch potato for a brisk walk, and suggest some form of regular exercise. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise weekly for adults [source: CDC].
  • Achieve a healthy weight -- Diet plays a big part in good health. If someone you love is overweight, it can be a touchy issue, but there are some ways to approach the weight topic. As part of a general health regimen, spring for a visit to a nutritionist or personal trainer. Your loved one may take a few weight-related suggestions better from a professional.

Don't Forget the Toys

Living healthier can come in a pretty package with colorful wrapping, too. Once you understand the areas where your loved one needs some help, why not buy a few gifts to get the ball rolling, sometimes literally. Nothing will jump start a new enterprise like a grown-up toy:

  • Exercise equipment -- Start small with exercise bands to help build muscle or move up to strength training with dumbbells. Need something more challenging? Try a jump rope or chinning bar. Learning how to use a stability ball will work wonders at toning muscles and improving balance, too.
  • Monitoring Tools - Provide some health-conscious tools with a heart rate and blood pressure monitor.
  • Cooking light -- Take the fat out of mealtime with a few kitchen helpers that will make low-fat cooking easier and more nutritious. Start with a vegetable steamer and set of non-stick pans. Low sodium spices are a good choice, too.