serves you right

Hiking is one of many fun-filled, physical activities one can do in a socially distanced natural setting.

What a year, from experiencing numerous ramifications of a pandemic to enduring negative political campaigns, most are not sad to say goodbye to 2020. On a positive note, some habits formed in 2020 that may be worth keeping.

With social distancing requirements in place, 2020 forced us to cook at home and dine in more. While spending more time at home, developing culinary skills provided a create outlet, sense of accomplishment and tasty meals. According to a survey of more than 1,000 adults conducted by Hunter, a food and beverage marketing communications firm, 54-percent said they are cooking more often, with 73-percent enjoying cooking as much or more than ever before. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed plan to continue to cook more often.

With an interest in staying healthy and strengthening immunity, home cooks have learned new ways to incorporate healthy ingredients into meals. Not only does home cooking have the potential for health benefits, it encourages family time and is less expensive than eating out.

Consumer demand for food from locally sourced ingredients continues to increase. The High Country Food Hub gained 1,300 new customers, having a direct impact on community farmers and food producers’ income-earning ability. Nationwide, sales of hunting licenses increased by more than 12-percent, with fishing license sales up by 14-percent for 2020.

From personal observation while visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway, more people enjoyed outside activities such as cycling, running and hiking in 2020. According to a data analysis from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the COVID-19 lockdown led to increases in interest and engagement with physical activity throughout the U.K., Australia and the U.S.

The positive effects of physical activity on both physical and mental health are widely accepted. Studies about outdoor physical exercise show that this type of activity, particularly in natural environments, promotes physical and emotional benefits such as vitality, psychological restoration and well-being. Also, exercising in natural settings is associated with increased energy, reduced stress and a positive mood. This is especially important during stressful times, but also for healthful daily living.

Consider what beneficial lifestyle changes you’ve been forced to make, like spending more time with family and becoming closer. Maybe you’re reading more, or have picked up a new hobby or creative outlet. Acknowledging the bright-side is an important step towards developing gratitude, and feeling happier.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with NC Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. margie_mansure@ncsu.edu, (828)264-3061

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