NEW YORK (Reuters) - 'Tis the season of the smart workout, when mobile phones track miles run, treadmills interact with virtual trainers and computer chips render even jump ropes artificially intelligent.
Experts say if you're techie gifting the fitness lover on your list, make sure the smart shoe fits and the app is apt.
"Try to match the gift with the person," advises Mary Jayne Johnson of the American Council on Exercise. "For older people I like the Wii Fit," an interactive game that Johnson, an exercise physiologist, says can be great for balance and coordination.
"And they have interesting applications like bowling, tennis and yoga," she said.
Liz Neporent is a fitness expert, self-described techie and co-author of the newly released "Fitness for Dummies, Fourth Edition," which devotes a chapter to tech fitness. She said all some senior citizens want for Christmas is an iPad.
"A lot of 70-plusers have taken to the iPad," Neporent said, probably because it's easy to use, portable, and can be loaded with apps that are good for an older person's health, such as medicine reminders.
"I've talked to five clients who've bought iPads for their parents," she said.
It is arguably the year of the app. Some 40,000-plus apps, or mobile application devices, are available for the iPad alone, according to Ted Miller, spokesperson for Apple.
He said more than seven billion apps have been downloaded to smart devices to date.
They run the fitness gamut. There are apps to track your workout, map your running route, or remind you to hit the gym.
"Yoga is a big thing for iPad. You can set it up and watch the class," Miller said.
Apps are inexpensive. iTunes gift cards come in increments of $10 up to $50 and an individual purchase is as simple as clicking "Gift this App" on the website.
Neporent said while the ease, nice price and bundle-ability of apps have great appeal, prospective gifters also must consider the stocking they're stuffing.
"I recommend apps for somebody who is really well versed and knows how to use them," she said. "They're not for everyone."
For the data junkie, she said, the rise of the chip, which these days is embedded in everything from running shoes to armbands to watches to jump ropes, can occasion another cup of holiday cheer.
Nike and Adidas have a chip you can put in your shoe which not only measures your run but tracks your heart rate at different points.
"For a runner, where your heart rate peaks can be important information," she said.
Neporent calls the body bug armband a 21st Century upgrade of the simple pedometer that tracks not only your walk, but the movement of your entire body, so you can get a pretty accurate accounting of calories burned.
Interaction reigns among the big ticket items as well, in spin bikes that connect with Google Maps, and a foldable home treadmill that monitors your workout as it charges your iPod.
Even the lowly DVD has gone interactive, with options to customize your choice of music, fitness level and length of workout.
"Everyone, even the tech-phobic, can do a DVD," Neporent said. "For some people that's techie. That's super-duper techie."
Reporting by Dorene Internicola; Editing by Patricia Reaney