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Physician-approved holiday gifts

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The Christmas and holiday season can be both a joyous and stressful time of year. Healthy habits are often set aside during the holidays in favour of excessive eating and drinking. It is difficult for weight-loss diets to succeed against the tide of holiday feasting.

However, we can still give a little bit of thought to our health at this time of year and have some fun doing so. Gift-givers can be reluctant to consider healthy gifts for those other than fitness buffs. Furthermore, selecting a health gift requires tact and sensitivity. You do not want to buy a gym membership for your loved one who needs to lose 50 pounds when they have expressed no interest in going to the gym.

Healthy gifts should match both the personality and the health interest of the recipient. It is possible to do this in more subtle ways, without offending anyone. In fact, when you make the gifts fun, you will more likely engage someone's interest to pay attention to their health.

Here are a few gift suggestions:



The pedometer is a small device that clips to your clothing and records how many steps you take. The steps can be converted into kilometres. For someone who is out of shape, consider buying a pedometer for yourself too so that you can set some fun goals together. You can decide to walk the distance to a different city in the world every month. The nice thing about pedometers is that they are not intimidating and do not require a workout. Every step during the day is recorded so it motivates people to walk, sit less and watch their numbers rise. You need to walk at least 10,000 steps per day to gain health benefits.



You might wonder how a toenail polish could be good for your health. The removal of built up callus and dead skin can greatly improve your foot health, reducing pain and improving walking ability. Both men and women can benefit from smooth feet. Finish off that pedicure with regular use of a foot moisturizer cream to prevent dry, cracked skin.



Exercise gadgets come and go but sometimes the simple things are still the best. Resistance bands or tubing as still the best value for the dollar. There are a variety of bands and exercises you can use to improve your strength and muscle tone. You can use the same band for advanced training by tightening the band. There are many workout band programs available on the internet. Check out for an example of some strengthening exercises.



It is easier to maintain your health and weight when you cook your own meals and eat out less often. Many people are intimidated by cooking or lack the time to prepare meals. There are a variety of cooking classes in Winnipeg for beginners and the more advanced chefs. Consider a gift certificate for a cooking class as a holiday gift. Try a fun class at the Food Studio on Roblin Boulevard ( or DeLuca's on Portage Avenue ( You can also take a look at the City of Winnipeg Leisure Guide for affordable cooking adventures at



There are so many health books available written by credible health professionals, it is difficult to recommend just one. Some health topics are just too heavy to digest during the holidays. For a quick, to the point read, try: The Doctors: 5 minute health fixes. The Doctors is an American television show hosted by a emergency physician, pediatrician, gynecologist and plastic surgeon. In this book, you will find some simple and valuable advice on many topics from the healthy heart to healthy bones to healthy childhood.



Don't sink in the snow, walk on top of it! Snowshoe walking is a fun, winter activity that the whole family can enjoy. They are lightweight and surprisingly affordable compared to skis and snowboards, starting around $100 for adults and $60 for kids. You can also rent snowshoes if you are not ready to purchase. Snowshoeing has become so popular that there are now snowshoe races where individuals are running on snowshoes. You can burn 600 calories per hour snowshoeing and 45 per cent more calories than walking or running without snowshoes. Click on the following link for Winnipeg in Motion, and scroll down under the Winter heading to: Where to buy or rent cross country skis and snowshoes. Fort Whyte also has some neat events involving snowshoeing at


Gifts for health do not have to be dull. Just be creative and positive. It is possible to spread good cheer with healthy and thoughtful gifts for the special people in your life. Stay safe and well this holiday season.


Readers can ask Dr. Kennedy questions, but due to the volume of requests, replies are not guaranteed. Email:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2010 C1

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About Dr. Maureen Kennedy

Born and raised in The Pas, Dr. Kennedy graduated from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, earned a BSc and BA from the University of Winnipeg and an MD from the University of Manitoba in 1994. After certifying in family medicine at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Kennedy was awarded a two-year fellowship in primary care sport medicine at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre. She completed this fellowship along with a MSc in Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. Her research focus was exercise counselling by family physicians. Dr. Kennedy further explored the use of exercise in medicine with PhD projects examining aerobic exercise in individuals scheduled for total hip or knee replacement surgery. She holds a diploma in sport medicine from the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine and has served on numerous provincial and national committees for organizations such as the Alberta Medical Association, Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, College of Family Physicians of Canada and Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

For the past 11 years, Dr. Kennedy has practised as a consultant in primary care sport medicine.

Dr. Kennedy's practice focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of injuries, muscle, bone and joint problems, orthopedic triage, weight management, osteoarthritis and dance medicine. She has served as the head physician for Alberta Ballet for the last nine years and has worked with the national women's hockey team along with many elite and amateur athletes in various sports. She points out that sport medicine physicians provide a tremendous service to the general public and the health-care system by shortening orthopedic waiting lists and providing non-surgical treatment options. "It's great to be back home in Manitoba and Winnipeg is a fantastic city," she adds. Readers can expect coverage on a wide range of fitness and health topics, including insider's tips on how to navigate the health-care system.


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