Of the many “quarantine trends,” that cropped up over the past few months, DIY gardening has made it to our list of favorites — and for good reason! There’s nothing like eating fresh fruits and vegetables from your own backyard. Cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries and tomatoes can grow anywhere and if you have a little more space, you can try planting peppers or cabbage. There’s no shortage of great, DIY gardening tips online, but did you know that gardening also has a great many benefits?

Gardening is proven to help improve our mental and physical health. Here’s how:

  1. Gardening is a great form of physical exercise: Gardening is considered a moderate-intensity exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can burn about 330 calories per hour of light gardening or yard work — that’s more than you would burn walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time. Watering plants, mowing with a push mower, or even planting seeds engages and strengthens the arms, shoulders, back and abs. With all the physical activity involved, gardening can prevent many serious health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and more. As with any type of aerobic exercise though, remember to stretch before heading inside! 
  2. Gardening can help boost your mental health and relieve stress: Stop and smell the roses — literally! Gardening helps take your mind off everyday stresses while the scents of the garden helps sooth and uplift the spirits. According to a 2017 study in Preventive Medicine Reports that analyzed 22 different case studies, gardening has a positive correlation with the reduction of depression and anxiety. In fact, hospitals and rehabilitation centers use planting and flower-arranging as a way to help relieve stress in patients recovering from injuries, strokes, surgeries and other conditions. 
  3. Gardening can lower blood pressure: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends gardening and raking leaves as one of the ways to help lower blood pressure. Why? It’s one way to get in 30-45 minutes of moderate-level physical activity on a regular schedule. This kind of scheduled moderate exercise can help prevent or control high blood pressure. 
  4. Gardening can help promote healthier eating: There’s nothing like your very own home-grown salad! Many studies show that Americans do not get the proper amount of fruits and vegetables a day, leading to decreased health. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential to reduce risk of serious diseases, and keeps your daily nutrient needs in check. With gardening, the easy access to fruits and vegetables may help promote a lasting habit of eating enough fruits and vegetables, for adults and for children! 

So, go get down and dirty and remember to have fun! 

The outbreak of COVID-19 serves as an unfortunate reminder that our health should never be taken for granted. At United Refuah HealthShare, we place a heavy emphasis on preventative care and maintaining healthy lifestyles. During this time, please remember not only to eat healthy but to stay active!

It’s no secret though, that working out at home can pose many challenges. So, without further ado, here are some of our recommendations:

  • Familiarize yourself with the best at-home workout. At home workouts are doable and there are many that don’t require any equipment. You can’t go wrong with tried-and-true classics like lunges, planks and crunches. Do your research.
  • Do a complete workout. According to Kevin Steel, PhD, exercise physiologist and vice president of 24 Hour Fitness Centers, an effective fitness program has five components:
    1. A warm-up: A walk outside or on the treadmill is a simple way to get warmed up. 
    2. A cardiovascular (aerobic) workout: Do some jump rope, follow an aerobics video, or go for a brisk walk. Do anything that gets your heart-rate up. 
    3. Resistance (strength-building) exercises:
    4. Flexibility moves: Increase flexibility with floor stretches or yoga poses.  
    5. A cool-down: Similar to a warm-up, do simple movements to help bring your heart-rate back down
  • Set yourself up for success. Prepare for your workout in order to maximize results and keep your motivation. Simple things like choosing a designated location, and putting on your workout clothes helps reframe your mind to create a routine and not fall out of it too quickly. 
  • Be realistic! Slow and steady wins the race. Only commit to what is reasonable for your schedule and ability. Avoid the temptation to jump into it all full speed. This will not be sustainable and can set you up for failure. Again, slow and steady wins the race!

Are you keeping safe during your food runs? Just because grocery stores remain open, does not mean that grocery shopping is risk-free! In fact, many of those who recently contracted Covid-19 infections have been identified as those who did not leave home. Keep in mind that the shopping carts, shelves, and the products upon the shelves, are handled throughout the day by other shoppers. Moreover, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others while shopping can be especially challenging. 

Of course, never leave the house without a mask and a pair of gloves. On top of that, take these extra precautions while grocery shopping:

  1. Shop at low times: Peak hours for grocery shopping are between the hours of 4pm-6pm on weekdays, and afternoons on weekends. Try to shop at other times to maintain your distance from crowds. If a store is busy, avoid going in and come back at another time. Please note: Many grocery stores and pharmacies are offering special shopping hours for senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals, and other high risk shoppers. Take advantage. If you fall within this category, find out which grocery store near you offers special hours. 
  2. Disinfect: Always carry disinfectant wipes (like Lysol wipes) with you on your food runs to wipe down grocery carts are baskets.These surfaces are touched by multiple people throughout the day and may be infected. If you don’t have access to wipes, a spray of disinfectant spray on a tissue or paper towel will accomplish similar results.
  3. Keep your hands away from your face: COVID-19 spreads quickly. Be aware of what you touch and avoid making contact with your face after touching any contaminated surface, even with gloves on. 
  4. Clean your phone and glasses: Take care to disinfect your phone, glasses, or any other surfaces immediately upon returning home. Those pesky COVID-19 particles can attach to anything and metals are especially susceptible. If possible, don’t handle your phone while shopping to avoid trapping unnecessary germs on your device.

INSIDER TIP: If you are using a grocery shopping service such as Instacart or Walmart pickup, schedule your shopping slot for as early in the morning as possible. In general, supermarket shelves are restocked overnight, and you have the greatest chance of having your order fully filled with an early morning shopping slot.

With Pesach coming up, the idea of eating healthy can seem impossible, but don’t let the Yomim Tovim be an excuse for extra carbs. Although carbohydrates are necessary staples in our diets, too much can cause weight gain and other serious health problems. To that end, we’ve compiled some tips below to help you plan your Pesach menu the healthy way:

  1. Learn the shiurim: Ask your Rav about the proper shiurim to fulfill the mitzvah of Matzah and “the 4 cups.” Don’t make excuses to overindulge in the name of a mitzvah. Remember, first and foremost, the Torah commands us to be healthy!
  2. Go kid-friendly: Young children are not required to drink 4 full cups of grape juice. Your kids may love it, but the sugar content is dangerously high. Instead, buy “light” grape juice or dilute the juice beforehand. Yes, your young children should be involved in this beautiful mitzvah, but don’t risk their health!
  3. Find alternatives: Kohlrabi, beets, golden beets, squash, zucchini and sweet potatoes are all great side-dish options and are less dense carbohydrates than potatoes. Eggplants are also great versatile, low-cal vegetables (if it is your minhag to use them on Pesach). You can try roasting them, turning them into a dip, or making eggplant Parmesan for a nice Chol Hamoad dinner. Plus, no-one will mind the variety😊
  4. Fill up on proteins: Be sure to include plenty of proteins in your meals. If beginning with an appetizer, try salmon or another fish dish.
  5. Get searching: There’s no shortage of healthy recipes online. Here’s just a few we found for you:

Visit last year’s Pesach blog post for more healthy tips!

Government guidelines and regulations related to our health should never be ignored. On that note, social distancing in order to help #FlattentheCurve should not be viewed as optional! If you are feeling sick (C”V) or exhibit any symptoms of the virus, (such as shortness of breath, fever, or body aches,) stay home! Remember, certain groups, such as the elderly or any individual with a compromised immune system, are considered “high risk.” It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s about preventing the spread of the disease to others. 

While social distancing is a necessary step we all must take, it can have a negative impact on our emotional and physical well being. Here are some tips to remain safe and healthy during social distancing and/or quarantine:

  1. Take a walk: social distancing does not mean staying indoors or isolating yourself. Fresh air is important to our physical, mental and spiritual health! Weather permitting, sit outside and read a book or take a short walk. 
  2. Stay in touch: you may not be able to spend time with friends and family in person, but that doesn’t mean, you should go off the grid. Baruch HaShem, technology, when used correctly, has given us valuable tools to help us through times like these. Take advantage. Call friends, learn with your chavrusa, and schedule “virtual-hangouts” via Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp video call. 
  3. Be active – don’t let your time away from the gym, let you forget your health! Try at-home workout guides, run up and down the stairs, do push-ups… anything to get you off the coach!
  4. Start a DIY project: We may all be busy with Pesach cleaning, but don’t forget to schedule in some fun! At-home “Do-it-Yourself” projects come in many forms — from learning how to cook to building your own kitchen table. Get creative! 
  5. Make Pesach cleaning fun: Involve your family members in a contest and turn up the music. Do what you have to do to add extra fun to this mitzvah!

How are you spending your time at home? Share your tips with us!

Your children might accumulate veritable piles of candies, taffies, and sweet junk from their friends this Purim. Brightly colored. Happily collected. You might have to be the one to rain on their parade.  How to do it?

Here’s how some parents escape Purim with their children’s teeth unscathed: 

  • Here’s my scientific method: I put aside all chips, pretzels, and snack baggies. Of those: I let the kids choose one per day to bring for snack to school. I put away Juice/Sodas/Punch drinks and let them choose one as a treat if they ask at a reasonable time. I allow them to have their chocolate whenever they want. (No more than three). All candies get put away in a bag. We use them for a Shabbos treat from now until eternity. (If there are treats that I really can’t handle, I surreptitiously chuck them when the kids aren’t around.)

“My kids learn all the time that their body is borrowed and not a trash can.”

  • I close my eyes until Shabbos, when candy goes to Shabbos party stash and the other nosh is used for snacks. The end. No drama. No business transactions.
  • We divided everything into categories. Yesterday they ate as much as they wanted. (!!) But today I let them pick three things to keep. The rest we are giving away to the less fortunate. My kids agreed to that and are very excited about the idea. BH.

“Teens are harder than little kids because they feel entitled to their stuff… I collected all the candy-type things, and BH there wasn’t so much. The chocolate is all MINE!!!!”

  • I’ve paid around $5 to each kid for them to throw the pure junk in the garbage: 50 cents for each sugary snack and drink. I explained to kids that that is not bal tashchis (wasteful), because these foods are like poison for our bodies. They aren’t deprived, as they still have lots left.

“I don’t think limiting candy amounts to deprivation. If you don’t have the mindset that fun = candy, you don’t think twice about it. On the other hand, I agree with not completely restricting candy because it backfires.”

  • My rule is that on Purim they can eat as much junk as they want (after a really good breakfast), but then on Shushan Purim we have a detox dayno nosh at all, just tons of fruits and veggies and healthy food. 
  • My kids get to keep most of their stash; I allow them one candy a day and they throw out whatever they don’t like (yes, no regrets).

What is your health-conscious method to the madness?

What is a mental health day?

You may have heard the term but aren’t what it means.

A mental health day is a day off that’s specifically geared toward stress relief and burnout prevention.

Taking sick days for physical health is very common, but the practice of taking time off work to tend to your mental health is practically unheard of. You may be hesitant to use one of your precious off days on something intangible and push yourself to show up anyway.

Yet, when you’re feeling stressed and pressured, your work suffers, potentially leading to issues that can hurt your performance and co-workers. Knowing when to take a mental health day for yourself is crucial to maintaining your health and well-being, both in and outside the workplace.

Remember, your mental health is just as important to your overall well-being as your physical health. Just like after any physical illness your body needs to recover, your mind needs time to rest and recover. If you wake up and feel especially stressed, down, or anxious — at a level that impairs your functioning — it’s time to consider taking the day off.

Sometimes, you just need some time to reframe and recharge.

The difference it will make in your life will make it all worth it.

Did you take a mental health day recently? Let us know how it went in the comments below!

Drinking hot beverages during the winter is a great way to beat the chill, but did you know it could also help to keep you healthy?

Of course, not every hot drink has health benefits, but some of your favorite drinks could help you fight off a seasonal cold. The next time you head to your kitchen to brew up something warm and comforting, consider the following ideas about warm beverages.

The Benefits of Hot Water

First, let’s start with the basics. Drinking plenty of water each day is a great way to maintain your health. It keeps you hydrated and aids in nearly every function of your body.

 Coffee and Cocoa

Thankfully, you won’t have to give up the delicious flavors of coffee or chocolate in your pursuit of health. Coffee has several recognized health benefits, such as aiding in the prevention of liver disease. Cocoa has a high number of antioxidants, can reduce the risk of heart disease and the signs of skin aging.

This winter is your chance to up your hot drink game! ☕️

What’s YOUR favorite winter drink?

Let us know in the comments.

At United Refuah, we see it as our goal to keep our members informed of health advances and trends. But before jumping on any trend bandwagons, make sure to look into it and make sure it will have real health benefits for you and your lifestyle.

Here are a few health trends that are expected to rise in 2020:

  1. Plant-Based Products

Plant-based foods were big in 2019, but 2020 is predicted to be even bigger in terms of products available and sales.

  1. Brain Food

We know that what we eat impacts our physical health, but the idea that food can affect mental health as well is relatively new. However, as research reveals more about gut health, it’s clear that there is a definite connection between the food we eat and our mental state.

  1. Standing vs. Sitting

People will focus on trying to move more throughout the day. Not working out, not even going for a walk, but just taking time throughout the day to stand up from a chair and move around for a few minutes. Research shows that our bodies just aren’t designed to be in one place for hours at a time.

  1. At-Home Workouts

The number of people working out at home with virtual training programs is expected to rise significantly in 2020.

  1. Running

Running’s popularity has ebbed in recent years, but it’s expected to make a comeback in 2020. So break out the sneakers and running gear!

Have any more health trends that you think will rise in 2020? Share it with us in the comments below!

It’s called the harvest season for a reason. Autumn brings an influx of ripe produce just begging to be made into healthy dishes. Load these fall foods onto your plate to take advantage of the best nutrition — and flavor — of the season. Here’ a list of ten of the healthiest foods for you to eat this fall:

1. Apples

Procyanidin, a type of antioxidant found in apples, has been found to lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

2. Artichokes

Packed with prebiotic fiber, artichokes can help promote the health and growth of your body’s probiotics, the good bacteria found in your GI tract.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli contains glucosinolates that help fight against oxidative stress and present many other health benefits.

4. Butternut Squash

Squash is lower in calories and higher in fiber than other starchy vegetables, but you’ll still get that flavorful, sweet taste that really satisfies.

5. Carrots

Just one large carrot provides more than double your daily value of vitamin A, the nutrient that protects your ocular health.

6. Cranberries

Cranberries are loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants linked to reducing risk of chronic disease and improving circulation.

7. Fennel

Fennel is filled with folate, a type of B vitamin that helps with muscle and nerve function, as well as allowing you to reap the energizing benefits from the all the foods you eat.

8. Grapefruit

Grapefruits come packed with fiber, water, and immune-boosting antioxidants that help reduce your risk of chronic disease.

9. Kohlrabi

Also called German turnip, it’s a nutrient-packed relative of wild cabbage that’s super low in calories, making it an easy way to add more veggies into rice dishes.

10. Mushrooms

The diversity of edible fungi lends itself to tons of different dishes, but all of these toadstools pack in potassium and selenium, an essential nutrient that helps with DNA synthesis and hormone metabolism.

(Source: Goodhouskeeping.com)