Christmas is bearing down, and more than ever fitness is the gift of choice. Here are some ideas to aid you on the hunt: ...

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CHRISTMAS IS BEARING down, and more than ever fitness is the gift of choice. Here are some ideas to aid you on the hunt:

The SportBrain iStepX1 pedometer adds technological oomph to your gait. The tiny device fits on your belt and records steps, miles, calories burned and your peak activity periods. Best of all, it tracks your progress online. The online service, activated by plugging the device into your computer’s USB connection, provides charts, numbers and even inspirational advice. The online service is free, but you can sign up and pay for even more information if you wish.

I found the iStepX1 to be the best pedometer I’ve yet tested. It is soundless, has a surprisingly large display screen that is tilted up toward you in a way that allows you to read it at a glance. The setting buttons are also obvious and easy to manipulate on the go.

It retails for $39.95. Check or REI ( for details.

Z-Coil shoes are certainly one way to put a spring in your step. And you can’t miss them. The heel is a coil.

The product’s goal is to relieve foot and back pain as well as arthritic and knee problems by cushioning the shock of each step and redistributing pressure. The coils can be adjusted to match your walking style or troubleshoot a squeak or click.

I’ve walked in the shoes, and they can provide a comfortable and cushioned ride. But the manufacturer cautions that the shoes need to be used properly. For one thing, the exaggerated heel, complete with the exposed coil, can catch on cables or other surface obstacles.

Prices range from about $149.95 for sandals to $179.95 for hiking boots. You can check them out at Your2Feet ( stores in Seattle (Capitol Hill and Ballard).

The Wanganui softshell jacket. The folks at Redmond-based Brooks ( know it takes more than shoes to run or walk around here. This season, the company has rolled out this nifty lightweight jacket that aims to help runners and walkers negotiate the cold and rainy season.

Specifically made for fall and winter, the nylon, polyester and spandex jacket is designed to shed moisture from the outside and regulate body temperature on the inside through the use of thermal squares. The Wanganui sports a heavier knit front and a soft back, which helps moisture transfer, as well as a hidden zip pocket and thumb holes. It retails for about $130.

The Waterboy HandHeld, also made by Brooks, is a 22-ounce bottle shaped to the natural grip of the hand. It is wrapped with a stretch “belt” that allows you to wedge your hand between it and the bottle; the belt has a small pouch big enough for a key or few coins. The whole thing retails for $17.

Alpha Swim Fins by Zura Sports look cool. And the makers say they also work better than standard flippers.

The fins are lightweight and uniquely shaped to make kicking more natural. That, in turn, helps body rotation and reduces cramping. The contour of each blade is far different from traditional fins. This offset profile, company officials say, allows for inward pointed toes and the same general motion of swimming without fins.

The fins retail at about $34.95 and can be found at the company Web site:

Tanita UM026 scale. Tanita (, long at the forefront of the home-scale market, has developed a number of scales that measure body fat percentage as well as sheer weight. Now the company is selling a scale that measures weight, body fat and how much of you consists of water. The UM026 scale ($89) that I tested calculates body water percentage through bio-electric impedance analysis (BIA), which is the same method used in all their body-fat-monitoring products. It sends a low-level electrical signal through the body to do the measuring. Some argue that other methods are more accurate, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of stepping on a home scale.

Having adequate water in the body helps stave off fatigue and other physical problems. About 50 to 65 percent of a person’s body weight is made up of water.

And lastly, here are some stocking-stuffer ideas:

The MagneTowel is a 16-by-27-inch cotton towel that has a strong magnet sewn into one corner and Velcro-secured pockets lining one end. The idea is that you can hang it anywhere that’s metal and keep your wallet, watch and cell phone if there is no locker available. For more about the towel ($12.95) see

Sof Sole’s X-Outs might be just the thing for a true stocking-stuffer. Shaped like little Xs, they deodorize socks, shoes, lockers and gym bags. What’s most interesting about these odor “X-terminators” is that they turn on and off. When you give one a half turn, the scent releases. When you turn it back, the scent pretty much stays bottled up. See for more information. They retail at $4.99.

Richard Seven is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. He can be reached at