The pandemic leads to heightened awareness of health in all its forms

The year 2021 is officially over, and since it looked like a 2020 expansion, people probably aren’t that upset to see it come to an end.

Although 2020 and 2021 are now considered years in the past, it was a time when health was the number one talking point. The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a deeper awareness of general well-being, including fitness, mental health and nutrition.

Reflecting on the past is often part of moving into the New Year. Below are five “Fit Friday” wellness stories from 2020 and 2021.

  • Emily Urbanski is suspended upside down in a silk hammock during an aerial yoga class in Pottstown. (File photo by MediaNews group)

  • Women use a silk fabric suspended from the ceiling during an aerial yoga class. (File photo by MediaNews group)

  • Elly Haigh, 10, poses for a photo with her Golden Retriever named Clover, who wears a bicycle helmet. The dog and his owners celebrated their eighth birthday on the Schuylkill River Trail in Pottstown. (File photo by MediaNews group)

  • Married couple Aaron and Emma de Long opened the Red Dog Market in June 2021 (MediaNews Group File Photo)

  • These tart cherries are sold at the Red Dog Market and are sourced from Beechwood Orchards. (File photo by MediaNews group)

  • This Poblano Corn Chowder with Chicken was made during an online cooking class with Chef Chris Welsh. (File photo by MediaNews group)

  • This Chili-Lime Butternut Squash Salad was made during an online cooking class with Chef Chris Welsh. (File photo by MediaNews group)

  • The image shown includes a woman smiling while wearing a mask. The image is now available on a billboard along Route 100 in Pottstown as part of the “Connect with a Smile” campaign. (File photo by MediaNews group)

Smile behind a mask important for community connection

The year 2020 has come with a lot of challenges, one being connecting with others. A simple smile became difficult to give because most people only saw other people outside their homes when they were behind a mask. A campaign called “Connect with a Smile” encouraged people across the region to reverse that frown, even while wearing a mask, to spread hope. Representatives from Creative Health Services spoke about why continuing to smile with a mask on and making eye contact is important for social, emotional and mental health reasons. Read the full story at

Husband and wife support local producers with the farmer’s market

Married couple Aaron and Emma de Long opened Red Dog Market, a small organic grocery store in the Township of Warwick, to connect people with local food suppliers. Much of the fresh produce sold in the market comes from Kneehigh Farm in South Coventry, which Emma de Long owns and operates. The vegetable farm has a Certified Naturally Grown accreditation which is granted to farmers who grow food naturally without synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs. The de Longs have created a 100 mile pledge for the Red Dog Market and work with small vendors in the area. Aaron de Long said the goal was regional food security, especially after the impacts seen during the pandemic. Read the full story at

Pets provide peace and comfort during the pandemic

Families have found solace in the company of their pets during the pandemic. The pandemic brought about many changes very quickly, such as stay-at-home orders and physical distancing guidelines. Marie Haigh, from Pottstown, home-schooled her three children before the pandemic so she didn’t have to adjust to virtual learning, but her family struggled to adjust to other circumstances caused by COVID-19. Haigh’s Golden Retriever named Clover was a motivator when it came to getting some fresh air by taking outdoor walks. Dogs weren’t the only pets that brought peace. Pet owners in the area said they also find comfort in their chickens, cats and guinea pigs. Read the full story at

People hang out in silk hammocks for aerial yoga

Jennifer Fischer, owner of the Samana Holistic Center in Pottstown, started offering aerial yoga classes in 2021. During aerial yoga, participants still focus on breathing and fluid movements, but while hanging inside of a piece of silk. The hammock provides support during some very interesting poses such as being upside down. Aerial yoga instructor Bobby Dietrich said participants need to be confident the fabric will keep them suspended. He usually encourages this confidence by making the class fun and helping his students see aerial yoga as an opportunity to play like a child. Suspension yoga is a full body workout. It includes basic crunches, upper body strength, and supporting leg movements. Read the full story at

A local chef presents virtual cooking classes

People have started preparing more meals at home since the start of the pandemic. Chef Chris Welsh, owner of personal chef service Secret Ingredient, started giving virtual cooking classes in 2020. Her first virtual cooking program was with a networking group of women looking for a safe vacation activity. to do together as they couldn’t meet in person. Welsh performed an online cooking demo for the group and received rave reviews from attendees. Interactive online cooking classes are a great way for families and friends to celebrate together when they can’t see each other in person. For a virtual cooking lesson, participants are given a shopping list to purchase ingredients. Then, everyone logs into Zoom for a 60- to 90-minute interactive cooking class. Read the full story at

About Alma Ackerman

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