The 2020 Well Holiday Gift Guide

Give someone the gift of healthy living this year with one of these gift ideas from the writers and editors of Well.

By Tara Parker-Pope

Illustrations by Eden Weingart

What gift has made your life better?

That’s the question I posed to the editors, writers and contributors to Well, and the result is our first-ever Well holiday gift guide. This list is packed with surprising ideas, many of which were influenced by the changes we’ve all had to make in pandemic life. You’ll find gifts to help you build exercise habits outside the gym, new ways to clean, ideas to lower stress and gifts to help you feel safer during the coronavirus crisis. Here’s to a healthier holiday for all of us.

Binoculars for exploring

Here’s a gift for anyone who’s been spending more time outdoors. “We purchased binoculars in April after our preschool closed and long walks in the nearby parks became our only outdoor activity. The binoculars gave us a different way to explore the world during a time when everything felt upside down. We wanted ones that our daughter (who was 3 at the time) could use without us freaking out if she accidentally scratched or broke them!” Cost: About $20 — Christina Caron, reporter


Better bike shorts

Elevenpine bike shorts are a wear-anywhere bike short for people who love cycling, but not spandex. “I love how stretchy, flattering and versatile they are, since you can make the legs tight fitting or loose, thanks to the wonders of Velcro. They are pricey, which is why I own only one pair. But it’s the pair I grab for most rides and also for gym workouts, since the pad is separate. I gave pairs to my son and husband last year for Christmas and have hinted to my husband that I wouldn’t mind another pair myself this year.” Cost: $90 to $120 — Gretchen Reynolds, Phys Ed columnist


Rain shower head

Create a spa experience at home. “I was recently given a rain shower head as a gift, and now I feel like I’m in a spa every time I take a shower (especially if I turn out the lights, add some aromatherapy oils and light some candles). The water comes out almost like a waterfall, and the water flow is straight down, not at an angle like a regular shower head. It’s the kind of thing I never would have purchased for myself, and now I can’t live without it. Divine!” Cost: $30 and up — Julia Calderone, senior staff editor


Instructional yoga mat

You’ll never forget a yoga pose with the New Me Fitness yoga mat, which is printed with illustrations of 70 poses directly on the mat. It’s a great gift for an adult new to yoga or for a child. “My kids love these yoga mats. My 4-year-old especially likes looking at the poses and then trying them out herself. It might not be a perfect yogini move, but she’s having a wonderful time.” Cost: About $30 — Jessica Grose, Parenting columnist


Fingertip pulse oximeter

A pulse oximeter is a small battery-powered device that clips onto your fingertip and measures the oxygen level in your blood. It’s an essential tool for monitoring your health if you get infected with Covid-19. “It’s a totally good thing to have in your medicine cabinet and to throw in your gift bag,” said Dr. Richard Levitan, who has called for widespread home oxygen monitoring during the pandemic. Don’t wait until someone gets sick. I’ve already shipped a half-dozen of these affordable gadgets to friends and family so I know they’ll have one handy if they need it. You can find one at your local pharmacy or online. Cost: About $20 to $40 Tara Parker-Pope, Well columnist


Portable air cleaner

A portable air cleaner can remove viruses and other pollutants from the air in your home. Buy one with a high “clean air delivery rate” and large enough for the room. Read more from Wirecutter, a New York Times company. “We bought a couple of these for our home, and we’ve been thinking it might make a good gift for my mother-in-law, or a good gift for anyone who lives in an apartment building where they’re worried about aerosols.” Cost: $100 and up — Apoorva Mandavilli, Science reporter


GPS running watch

If your favorite gym rat has started exercising outdoors, a fitness watch might be the perfect gift. “Now that gyms are too high-risk, I’ve started running outside a lot more. I purchased a Garmin Smartwatch to track and log my runs and I love it. My favorite feature is that while I’m running, the watch tells me my distance and pace in real time. I typically start out running too fast and tire myself out. With the Garmin, I’m able to look down at my wrist and see if I’m running too fast or too slow in real time and adjust my pace so I can reach my goals.” Cost: $150 and up — Anahad O’Connor, reporter


Chemo clothing

If you love someone who’s undergoing treatment for cancer, this special T-shirt from Comfy Chemo will make life just a little easier. “Each has a zipper from the collar to the underarm on both sides, so it works whether a port is implanted on the right or left side of the chest. I mentioned these port-accessing T-shirts in a column I wrote about clothing and cancer, but very few people seem to know about them. They mean that the patient does not have to disrobe for an infusion: She just unzips. So many nurses kvell over my port T-shirt.” Cost: About $35 — Susan Gubar, Living With Cancer columnist


Personalized masks

You can never have too many masks these days, so why not give one with a personal touch? “I got this gift idea from a devoted mask-wearer who lives in an area with like-minded people and often doesn’t know to whom she is talking. She suggests buying a supply of black or white masks, and embroidering each mask with the name of the designated recipient: I’m Jane. I’m Joe.” Cost: About $5 to $10 — Jane Brody, Personal Health columnist


Touch-free soap dispenser

“As I started washing my hands more at the start of the pandemic, I realized I was touching and contaminating the soap pump every time I lathered up. I solved the problem with this rechargeable touch-free soap dispenser from Simple Human. I know it’s just soap, but it delights me every time it squirts a blob of citrus-scented foam on my hand.” Cost: $60 — Tara Parker-Pope, Well columnist


Comfort blanket

Weighted blankets are a popular gift this holiday. Read our review in Wirecutter. “Weighted blankets for the masses! I just got one for myself, and my sleep is already improved. It may be a placebo effect, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts! They are surprisingly more affordable than I expected.” Cost: $60 and up — Roni Rabin, Science reporter

If a weighted blanket isn’t your thing, try a cozy faux fur blanket. “I picked one up at the Pottery Barn outlet in Lancaster two years ago because it kind of matched my dog. After a long day, or a cold run, I curl up under it and feel a little bit better about the world. It’s the most important tool in my hygge box.” Cost: $40 and up — Jen A. Miller, Running columnist


The Parks Project

A mug, hoodie or gift box from the Parks Project will support one of our national parks. “I’m hoping the gifts can be something my outdoor adventurer sons will enjoy for now, but also serve as a place-holder to remind them that someday when we can travel safely again, these parks will be waiting for us to explore.” Cost: $12 to $180 — Roberta Zeff, editor, Well Family


Robot floor cleaner

With people staying home more, our houses need more cleaning. A robot floor cleaner can help. “One of my favorite gifts ever was a robo vacuum. I have a robot mop too. I wake up to freshly vacuumed carpet lines and a crumb-free kitchen. I named them Gillian and Dustin. It’s like a house pet that cleans.” Cost: $200 and up — Karen Barrow, assistant editor for newsroom product


“A Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack

Songs from the original soundtrack of the CBS special, performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, have made the holiday playlist of President Barack Obama. “I have the LP, and it still makes me tear up at times because it reminds me of being young. Good for the soul.” Cost: About $15 — Sarah Williamson, art director


Women’s Bean Project

The Women’s Bean Project offers bean and lentil soup mixes, snacks and even dog treats, all made by women who had been chronically unemployed. By working for the Bean Project they are breaking the cycle of poverty. “Their food gifts nourish the body and soul. This nonprofit organization is in my hometown, Denver, and my family has volunteered with them for years: both their mission and location are close to my heart.” Cost: $5 to $25 — Lisa Damour, Adolescence columnist

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