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The best fitness gifts for your friends who work out

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Fitness fanatics can be pretty intense. You’ll probably identify us from miles away, decked out in workout gear, obsessing over the food we eat, or discussing our gains nonstop. A fitness lover has probably invested a lot of time and money into tools that can help improve performance, which can make us tough to shop for — we probably already have everything we need! But we’re also very likely to be super excited by any new toy that could boost our workouts. Plus, the most dedicated of us probably wear out our favorite gear quickly enough that we could always use new stuff.

What to get a fitness lover

It’s natural to assume that gifts for fitness lovers must be used during workouts, but recovery is an equally important (and frequently overlooked) part of anyone’s fitness journey. And presents for fitness lovers don’t have to be tech-infused, either. Gift cards to their favorite athleisure or fashion brands would probably be well-received, while compression braces or socks can provide them physical support. A pair of gloves would also help your weightlifting pal avoid getting more calluses, and special insoles can turn decent running shoes into great running shoes.

A versatile gift for anyone trying to keep active would be a resistance band, which suits a variety of strength levels and is very travel friendly. And, as my sports chiropractor constantly reminds me, a foam roller is the best thing for my sore muscles.

Tech gifts for fitness fans

Of course there are plenty of gadgets targeting exercisers and our muscles. From traditional machines like treadmills to smart skipping ropes and VR boxing simulators – the land of fitness tech gets stranger by the day.

As someone who’s recently become somewhat of a workout fiend, I would enthusiastically welcome anything that’s related to improving my performance. I’ve tested all manner of devices — whether it’s Gatorade’s sweat patch and hydration-tracking bottle or smart mirrors and form-checking cameras. From my experience, single-purpose devices are the most likely to sit around unused. Things like the Gatorade bottle and Fiture mirror, for example, which actually serve a purpose even if they’re deactivated, are more likely to withstand the test of time. Here are our favorite tech products for fitness lovers.

Garmin Forerunner 745

Garmin Forerunner 745
Garmin Forerunner 745

Serious runners swear by Garmin’s Forerunner series. They’re the gold standard for running watches, thanks to their accuracy and comprehensive suite of features. You can track your cadence, stride length, ground contact time, balance and more, but Garmin also helps monitor your recovery time and training load.

It’ll analyze your performance and workouts, using your aerobic and anaerobic data to see what effect your exercise is having on your endurance, speed and power. The Forerunner 745 will also tell you if you’re training productively, at your peak or if you’re overreaching. Like most other smartwatches, this will also track your sleep, control your music playback and alert you to incoming notifications from your phone. It may have a more basic-looking operating system than the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch, but the Forerunner 745’s best trait is that it will last up to a week on a charge. — Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor

Buy Forerunner 745 at Garmin - $500

Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch Series 8
Apple Watch Series 8

For iPhone users, there is no better smartwatch than the Apple Watch. Whether you opt for the maxed out Ultra or the basic SE, you’ll be getting your loved one a well-rounded and competent wearable. The Series 8 sits between those two models and offers a great balance of features and comfort. It’s not as chunky as the Ultra and has an onboard skin temperature sensor that the SE doesn’t.

Your giftee will receive reminders to stay active, have their walks automatically detected and be prompted to take mindfulness breaks throughout the day. Apple’s workout tracking also does a great job of logging time elapsed, calories burned, distance traveled and other key metrics. Plus, with watchOS 9, the workout pages now show what heart rate zone the wearer is in, so they can better understand when to push themselves harder or take it easy.

If the person you’re shopping for is more of an endurance athlete or outdoor adventurer, the Ultra’s enhanced GPS and special features might make it a better gift, but at $800, it’s wildly expensive and you might want to split the cost with others. — C.L.

Buy Apple Watch Series 8 at Amazon - $399

Fitbit Inspire 3

Fitbit Inspire 3
Fitbit Inspire 3

Compared to older Inspire models, the third generation comes with a color touchscreen that’s easier to navigate. While Fitbit OS remains pretty basic, it will at least deliver smartphone notifications to your wrist. Plus, the lowkey software translates to 10-day battery life, even in that small, lightweight frame. If the person you’re shopping for prefers to leave their phone at home when they go on a run, the Inspire 3 lacks the onboard GPS necessary to route their journey, so you’ll need to look for something else. But for almost everyone else, the Inspire 3 is a great, low-profile way to keep track of your activity. — C.L.

Buy Inspire 3 at Amazon - $100

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Samsung’s line of smartwatches remains the best on the market for Android users. Though the Galaxy Watch 5 runs the relatively basic Wear OS, the company has managed to bake in its capable health and fitness-tracking system to help the user stay active. Its auto-detection is among the most accurate in the industry, and it tracks an impressively long list of workouts, including swims. And if your loved one already uses Samsung phones and appliances, they’ll find some useful integrations like smart home controls from their wrist.

The Watch 5 is also a capable sleep tracker, and though it doesn’t offer as many mindfulness-related features as Apple and Fitbit, Samsung does have some meditation guides in its Health app. It’s also the only smartwatch on this list with a round face, which fans of traditional watches may prefer. — C.L.

Buy Galaxy Watch 5 at Amazon - $280

Apple Fitness+

Apple Fitness+
Apple Fitness+

If you’re shopping for someone that wants to get more active but is intimidated by gyms, a Fitness+ subscription is a great way to help them get started. Apple’s library of video workouts caters to all levels, but it’s especially friendly to beginners. Fitness+ contains comprehensive guides, as well as collections designed for pregnant people or new parents, giving plenty of options for those who may find themselves in different life situations.

Starting in October, Apple opened up Fitness+ so you no longer have to own an Apple Watch. Now, your giftee just needs to have an iPhone, and they can follow along the routines through their TVs, iPads or, yes, iPhones. If they also own an Apple Watch, they can pause and resume the classes from their wrist, as well as see their heart rate and Move ring progress on the screen.

Since the videos can be viewed on iPads, Fitness+ is suitable for people who travel a lot. They can take the classes in hotel rooms, RVs, cruises and more. It’s also a great last-minute gift. Just know that for anyone that has a specific favorite sport and doesn’t want to explore new types of activity, Fitness+ might feel too easy. — C.L.

Subscribe to Apple Fitness+

Withings Body+ smart scale

Withings Body+ smart scale
Withings Body+ smart scale

The right weighing scale can deliver more readings than just weight alone. Case in point: Withings’ Body+ smart scale. It’ll tell you how heavy you are, sure, but it also uses multi-frequency bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA) to get your muscle mass, fat mass, bone mass, water percentage and visceral fat level. And like all good connected scales, it’ll send all that information to an app on your phone so you can track your progress over time.

The Body+ scale also offers Pulse Wave Velocity (PWV) tracking, which measures the speed at which your blood travels to see your vascular and nerve health. At $100, it’s not the cheapest, but it does produce a wide range of data that regular weighing scales don’t. You can also consider less premium devices from Withings that also offer body composition measurements, like the Body Scan or Body+, which will serve your friend perfectly well. — C.L.

Buy Withings Body+ scale at Amazon - $100

Theragun Mini

Theragun Mini
Theragun Mini

It’s important to take care of your body even after you’ve completed a tough workout. The Theragun Mini can take your recovery routine to the next level by helping you massage out tension points in your muscles with more force than you could even provide on your own. It has three different speeds, all of which work better on different muscle groups, and its ergonomic design makes it pretty easy and comfortable to hold while using it. Sure, you can get more speed options, smartphone connectivity and more with the high-end models, but the Mini is great not only for its relatively affordable price, but for its compact design as well. Weighing only three pounds, it could easily live in your gym bag for daily muscle maintenance but you could also throw it on your carry-on before a trip so you can work out those cramps and knots you’ll inevitably get after sitting in an airplane seat for a few hours. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Buy Theragun Mini at Amazon - $199

Shokz OpenRun Pro

Shokz OpenRun Pro
Shokz OpenRun Pro

The Shokz OpenRun Pro Bluetooth headphones provide a unique way of blending music with an active lifestyle that’s ideal for runners, cyclists and more. They use bone conduction to deliver sound to your inner ear through your cheekbones, leaving your ears open so you can remain aware of your surroundings.

The OpenRun Pro model is the company’s premium offering and provides one of the richest bass experiences available for this style of headphones. They’re IP55 water-resistant, offer a useful 5-minute quick charge for 1.5 hours of listening and last up to 10 hours on a full charge. You should keep in mind that the open-ear design is a tradeoff, since they’re not great for noisy environments.

This is an interesting gift for fitness enthusiasts because they’re probably not the first style of headphones that they’d consider. But once they’ve taken them for a run or a bike ride, the benefits of having music while also keeping track of nearby traffic or pedestrians is game changing. — Jon Turi, Homepage Editor

Buy OpenRun Pro at Amazon - $180

Withings ScanWatch Horizon

Withings ScanWatch Horizon
Withings ScanWatch Horizon

There are smartwatches, there are fitness watches, and then there is Withings’ ScanWatch Horizon. It’s the French company’s gussied-up version of its class-leading hybrid that remains my only pick for people who want something smart, but classy, on their wrist. Horizon comes with activity, fitness, sleep and heart-rate tracking as well as a built-in ECG to monitor your heart health. But it’s been styled like a diver’s watch, with the OLED subdial the only clue that it’s a lot smarter than it looks at first glance.

Maybe it’s the fact that what makes Horizon so good is how well-hidden its smarts really are, and how good it looks on your wrist. And that’s before you get to the practical stuff – it’s $500, so it’s cheaper than a Submariner and does plenty more. The battery will last for a month at a time, reducing the need for you to keep your charger close by at all times. And Withings’ Health Mate app remains one of the best on the market for giving you insights about your body you might not have noticed yourself. — Daniel Cooper, Senior Reporter

Buy ScanWatch Horizon at Amazon - $500