Healthy Living in the North

20 minutes a day: for my dog, or me?

Dog laying in grass

Abby laying in the shaded, cool grass after a good exercise and training session.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “consistency is key”? I’ve heard it lots in the context of physical activity for myself and my own healthy eating. However, since I’ve become the proud owner of my pup, I’ve also heard it in the context of dog training.

I want to be consistent with my pup’s training and, because there are only 24 hours in a day, I have to find ways to make it healthy for me, too. I want to work smarter and not harder, so I find ways that I can incorporate the two activities – my health and my pup’s training. More motivation for me to get off the couch and more motivation for me to be consistent with my dog training. Win-win, right?

I’d be lying if I said it is easy or convenient. It is certainly something that I have to work on. Every. Single. Day.

It’s so much easier to take her for a leisurely walk than to work on the training, but if I want to keep training as a focus, it has to happen.

Three dogs laying in grass outside of home.

Abby laying in the backyard with her friends from the neighbourhood, “Ronin” the St. Bernard and “Oscar” the Boxer. Their play time counts towards her active time (some down time for me!).

My dog trainer recommends 15-20 minutes per day to focus on training and to make it fun. There are lots of benefits to me for this investment:

  • Get outside
  • More obedient dog
  • More quality time spent with my dog can lead to a better overall relationship
  • Sunshine (Vitamin D) (depending on where you live!)
  • Fresh air

As a bonus, I’m rarely back in the house after those 15-20 minutes. The training usually just pulls me away from zoning out on the couch after work. And, as much as I want to do this some days, my commitment to working with her forces me to go outside and look at the trees, hear the birds, and explore the nooks and crannies of my yard and my neighbourhood. We poke around in the yard together, I can pull a few weeds (better gardens!), explore the neighbourhood trails for signs of new wildlife (I live in a rural area and will commonly see signs of moose, deer, coyotes and more), meet and chat with my neighbours (social interactions and building community), and – last but not least – I get a lot more physical activity than I would otherwise (more steps on my tracker!).

Sneaker next to moose track in dirt.

Fresh moose track on the trails behind our house.

I’m not saying that a dog will give you all these benefits. My dog is a lot of hard work and she is a serious commitment (one that doesn’t go away in the dead of winter in -20 C!). Daily, I have to find ways to keep her and I motivated to keep active and socialized. But, getting her is truly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Do you have a dog? How does s/he help you and your health?

If you don’t have a dog, what kinds of things do you do to prompt you to get health benefits or do healthy things?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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What would you change?

Person holding a pledge sign

Marlene from Northern Health has also made a pledge. What are you waiting for?

Every day, I come to work and I’m pretty happy. I enjoy the work that I do and the people I work with. But, every now and again, I notice things – small things – that could make our lives just a little better. These things are in my control, but then life gets busy or I don’t see others making an effort, so I don’t either. But … what if I did?

Every day, there are little things. Washing the dirty dishes that accumulate in the lunch room, or cleaning the fridge (I know, right?!). I also think about going out of my way to smile a little more and take a minute to say “good morning,” but I don’t want to bother people. But, would they be bothered?

Sometimes I notice things that could make a difference for the people we serve. For example, people get lost in my building regularly. When I see them wandering around looking lost, what if I went up to them and offered them directions? On this blog, we often post lots of health-supporting information developed by our experts within Northern Health, but what if I got two or more of these people together? Maybe we could develop information that is more appropriate for some of the people to whom we provide health information? Could I provide that information in a more accessible or interesting way?

What if I introduced myself by name to the next person who I respond to online? I wonder how that would make them feel? Maybe I could relieve some anxiety they may have for asking questions about our organization?

What do you need to make these changes?

Right now, there is a global movement happening to support small, helpful changes in the workplace. Started by the National Health Service in the U.K. in 2013, Change Day encourages people like me to commit to making one small change. The idea is that the movement builds on the ideas that I have about how I can make my workplace better for me, my colleagues, and those we serve. This isn’t about big, system-level change (though, who knows?! It may lead to that!). This is about changes that I can make today.

This isn’t only limited to Northern Health. This is open to all of us who work in the health, social, and community care sector in B.C. And, really, the principle is applicable to us all in our work and personal lives.

So, I took the leap. I decided to make a change. I publicly made my pledge at changedaybc.ca. As of today, Northern Health has 79 pledges of a total of 864 pledges. I know that when Northerners put their hearts into something they want, there is no stopping them.

What is stopping you from pledging today?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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A Healthier You (November 2014)

A Healthier You; magazine; youth

A Healthier You (November 2014)

Where does the time go?! We are already at our 12th edition of A Healthier You! Brought to you by Northern Health and Glacier Media, the magazine is produced four times a year. Articles are written by northerners for northerners and cover a broad range of topics.

Have you ever thought that today’s youth are unengaged or less healthy? Well, this issue proves you wrong! All around northern B.C., youth are engaged and taking on great tasks to make their communities healthier places to live. For example, check out Myles Matilla’s great work promoting youth mental wellness and mindcheck.ca. We also highlight ways to get kids engaged in their personal health and wellness, including healthy meal preparation, physical activity, and more!

In addition to the Northern Health and Prince George Citizen staff, we want to thank the YMCA of Northern BC, First Nations Health Authority, and the Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation for their contributions to this edition.

Read the magazine today!

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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An autumn walk

dog; autumn; walk

Nature’s show to entertain us on our walks.

October is my favourite month of the year – hands down. It may have something to do with it being my birthday month, but I think it’s more about the fall colours, sweaters and boots coming out of the closet, and the furnace having kicked in. It gives me a really cozy feeling inside and I just love it!

I recently got a dog (“Abby”) and this has made me really appreciate October even more – something I didn’t think was really possible!

As a responsibility to Abby, I make an effort to walk her twice a day. Yes, it is hard to keep this commitment to her, but I prioritize it and they may not always be the best walks, but she is strapped to a leash twice each day and taken off the property. As we are losing daylight, this is becoming harder, too, but we persevere. Some days, we are able to find or make time for a good long walk and a way to take it onto the local trails. It’s more exciting for both of us when we can make this happen.

autumn; landscape

Event he best high-definition TV can’t fully capture the feeling of autumn!

Initially, the walks were about keeping her happy, entertained, and exercised. The surprising by-product is that I am happier and exercised, too. The only thing that is suffering is my PVR because I don’t have as much time to watch TV in the evenings any more (oh, darn!). If I’m on dog-walking duty, not a day goes by that I don’t get at least 10,000 steps in. Moreover, I’m getting the chance to really appreciate the full beauty of fall.

I am not suggesting that everyone needs a dog to be more active because owning any pet is a huge responsibility. But, what about grabbing a non-furry friend for a walk? Nature is giving us a spectacular show at this time of the year. Even the best high-definition TV can’t capture the full show. And, while looking at the amazing colours around us, you may not notice that your feet are hitting the pavement a little more than usual.

What is your favourite thing about fall?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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NH Stories: Caring for patients in Quesnel

Bonnie MacKenzie is a peri-operative nurse at GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quensel. In this video, she shares her story about how she cares for patients and why this is important to her. Specifically, she feels that respect is at the centre of good, quality patient care.

Do you know of an NH staff member who goes above and beyond? Share your story with us in the comments below.

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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NH Stories: Fundraising for Terry Fox in northern BC

Jim Terrion is a housekeeper at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George. In this video, he (with the assistance of a translator) shares his story of fundraising for the Terry Fox Foundation. As of the 2014 Terry Fox Run, Jim has surpassed his goal for this year ($610,000) and is well on his way towards his goal of $1 million.

Do you know of an NH staff member who has gone above and beyond? Share your story with us in the comments below.

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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NH Stories: Coordinating care in Fort St. James

Amanda Edge is the head nurse at Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James. In this video, she shares the story of how she coordinated for a palliative patient to return to family in Ontario prior to his passing. It was one of the most rewarding parts of her nursing career.

Have you had an NH staff member go above and beyond for you? Share your story with us in the comments below.

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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Infographic: Every move counts!

It’s August – the sun is out, the weather is warm, and the days are longer. What better time to find ways to fit physical activity into your day?

Physical activity is about moving your body in a way that feels good for you today. How we move our bodies and how much we move our bodies can contribute to our health today and in the future. Check out our infographic below to learn about moving your body for your health today!

infographic, physical activity

Move for your health!

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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A Healthier You (August 2014)

A Healthier You, magazine, cover, August 2014

A Healthier You (August 2014)

We are very proud to share with you our eleventh edition of A Healthier You. Brought to you by Northern Health and Glacier Media,  the magazine is produced four times a year. Articles are written by northerners for northerners and cover a broad range of topics. This issue highlights health in northern B.C.’s communities: from outdoor classrooms in Chetwynd, to promoting mental wellness on Haida Gwaii.

Some of the great articles look at northern B.C.’s healthy eating opportunities in summer and fall, a variety of festivals and fairs that are happening in your back yard, and a feature article on how Northern Health is supporting health and wellness projects across the region.

In addition to the Northern Health staff, we want to thank Northern BC Tourism, the Fort Nelson Hospital and Healthcare Foundation, Fort St. John Hospital Foundation, and the Smithers Health Information Hub for their contributions to this edition.

Read the magazine online!

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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The farmers’ market: a telltale sign of summer

salad greens, farmers' market

Fresh greens at a local market – yum!

One of the greatest things about northern B.C. in the summer are the local farmers’ markets. I love waking up early on a Saturday morning and going to our local market in Prince George. The streets are buzzing with people and activity in a way that I didn’t think was possible at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday! The smells of fresh baking, the sense of security that comes from local meats and vegetables, and the admiration of the work of local artisans creates a sense of community that is hard to duplicate in another setting.

When I travel, I will always stop at a local market if I see one. From downtown Vancouver to Williams Lake, McBride, Dawson Creek and Terrace, the locally produced goods and the social atmosphere will always draw me to visit (and likely make a small purchase!). Did you know that northern B.C. has at least 13 farmers’ markets? Check out this list of markets in our region!

In one of our recent videos (below), Theresa Healy visited the farmers’ market in Quesnel to talk to vendors and visitors. They share their experience that the market is about more than getting local groceries.

Social benefits aside, farmers’ markets are also good for our environment and local economies. Growing local food supports the environment as it reduces the need for food to be transported to the local population from afar. With respect to helping the local economy, one study done by a researcher at the University of Northern BC estimates that, in 2012, over $113 million was spent at local farmers’ markets across British Columbia. The consumer gets food that is produced close to home and in its peak season, so it is fresher. Also, if you are a beginner green thumb like me (see a previous post), vendors are a total wealth of information about local growing! The total equation is win-win-win!

Have you visited your local farmers’ market yet this summer? What is your favourite part of the market?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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