There are fitness gadgets for exercisers of any level, whether you're an Ironman triathlete or just starting to get up and go.
Keep in mind what activities interest you when you are shopping for gear, says Jessica Matthews, physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. This will help you choose items that you will use and enjoy.
"[Do you] enjoy working out at home or prefer attending group fitness classes? Would you perhaps like working one-on-one with a personal trainer at the gym?" says Matthews.
Let it Snow
If you or someone you know is a runner, but dreads winter because of snow and ice, check out the New Balance Winter 110 trail running shoe. This minimalist-style shoe is wrapped with a waterproof layer that protects feet from slush and snow, and it comes with plush lining for warmth ($125, running shops). Someone more interested in a walk or short hike might try the New Balance 1099 lightweight boot. It's waterproof and the sole's designed to grip snow and ice ($110).
Dressing in layers is ideal for exercising outdoors in the winter, so consider the right hats, gloves, scarves and socks. "Layers protect the exerciser from the elements while giving them the flexibility to remove layers if they become too warm," Matthews says.
For indoor exercisers who want a new strength-training tool consider the Century Dual Grip Medicine Ball (in 8-, 12-, 16- and 20-pound versions). The vinyl ball, which is filled with sand that shifts slightly as you grip and move it, tests muscles and coordination by combining the qualities of a medicine ball with the challenge of a sand bag ($25-$45, sporting goods stores).
Consider training sessions with a local certified personal trainer if you prefer the indoors and are new to fitness.
Matthews, a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor, says working with a professional offers many benefits, "from learning the basics about fitness, such as how to perform exercises with proper form, to having a customized program developed by a qualified professional to help the individual reach his/her unique health and fitness goals."
Keeping cool while you're working out can be a challenge and even a safety issue in extreme summer temperatures. Mission's EnduraCool Instant Cooling Towel provides two hours of quick, chemical-free relief from the heat. Just wet the towel and snap it to lower the towel's temperature to 59 degrees within a minute, whether you're indoors or out. Wet again to re-activate. ($14.99/large, sporting goods stores).
Monitoring heart rate can be a great motivational tool for athletes. A chest strap or a finger sensor allows the user to target a specific heart rate range in order to achieve the maximum benefit from a workout without overdoing it. Prices vary from around $60 to $400. Erik Hroncich, owner of Seattle-based EDGE Personal Training, recommends Garmin, Polar and Timex, popular brands with multiple versions. Garmin's new Forerunner 610 has a touch-screen, wristwatch-style system with GPS, heart rate monitor and the ability to wirelessly upload and track running routes and stats to a computer ($400, sporting goods stores and specialty shops).
Athletes everywhere are wearing compression garments, skin-tight black sleeves and socks designed to squeeze and compress muscles and enhance performance. Now they're available in a stylish pink, medical-grade material from Cramer sports medicine products. Cramer's Endurance Support System (ESS) sleeves promise to increase muscular blood flow and flush away painful lactic acid to allow quicker recovery and tougher workouts ($20 - $25 for calf, thigh, knee, arm and ankle, sporting goods stores).
If your child plays sports but you can't get him or her to wear a protective mouth guard — essential to decreasing the risk of concussion and protecting teeth — try MoGo Sport's new flavored mouth guards, which fit adults, too. They come in lemon, orange, mint, bubble gum and fruit punch, are BPA-free and contain natural flavors that last for the life of the mouth guard. They even fit over braces ($11.99, sporting goods stores).
For Those Just Getting Started
Fitness-related gadgets aren't just for those who are already in great shape. Sometimes, the right item can encourage someone in need of a life change.
An inexpensive pedometer or fitness-tracking software for a smartphone can be helpful reminding someone to be active, according to Pete McCall, a San Diego exercise physiologist.
While daily weigh-ins can be demoralizing, since an exerciser isn't likely to see losses daily, tracking weight every 10 days to two weeks may be beneficial, McCall says.
The FitBit Aria ($149) is a WiFi-enabled scale that records a person's weight, body fat and BMI and wirelessly sends the info to a computer to track calories, pounds lost and overall progress. The device also connects with others trying to lose weight via the FitBit website. Each family member can create his or her own account ($149, specialty stores).
The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges, by Richard Hoad and Paul Moore (VeloPress, 2012) is great reading. Whether it's walking and skiing 420 nautical miles across the South Pole or cycling 240 miles across five mountain ranges in Costa Rica, there are dozens of adventure races that'll take months if not years to prepare for. In the meantime, a reader can simply enjoy the gorgeous color photos of racers who have gone the distance (bookstores, $29.95).