Healthy Living in the North

Make health fun in 2015

Two skiers on a chairlift on a ski hill.

Getting outside and trying new activities are two ways that Mandy plans to make health fun in 2015. How will you make health fun?

As 2014 comes to an end, many of us already have New Year’s resolutions dancing through our heads, wondering what commitments we will make to improve our health for 2015.

It seems as though exercising more, saving money, losing weight and quitting smoking are what most people hope to achieve for the upcoming year. The problem with resolutions is that 60% of adults make these promises each year but, of those, only about 40% will be successful. I admit that I have been guilty of this in the past: my commitment to run a half-marathon is going on six years and I don’t think this will be the year, either. So this year, I am taking a new approach: I am going to commit to having some fun in 2015!

Not “whoop it up and book a trip to Vegas” fun, but thinking of ways to improve my health with a focus on enjoyment at the same time. I am going to commit to:

  • Trying activities that are new to me. Zumba? Cross-country skiing? Geocaching? Yoga? Maybe I’ll find something I like and stick with it – and I have a better chance of accomplishing this if I bring a buddy with me!
  • Healthy meal planning. In the hustle and bustle of life, I often find it a struggle to make nutritious and delicious choices for my family at mealtimes and it’s not fun to be scrambling at the last minute. For 2015, I will focus more on meal preparation. I plan to enlist the help of my friends for new recipe ideas and my kids to help out in the kitchen. Maybe I will fit in a few potlucks and dinners with friends, too!
  • Getting outside more often. I really enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air and dose of vitamin D come as added bonuses. We have amazing natural environments in northern B.C. and four wonderful seasons. I will enjoy these with more snowshoeing, exploring new trails, playing soccer with my kids, bike riding, and going wherever my feet can take me! By committing to this at least a few times a week, I will also get in my recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week!

How will you make health fun in 2015?

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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Active for what?

Family playing soccer outdoors.

We know that we need to be physically active, but how active and for how long? For adults, the guideline to follow is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.

We all know that physical activity has many health benefits – but are we getting enough and how much do we actually need to achieve these health benefits?

Incorporating regular physical activity into our daily routines reduces the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Other benefits include:

  • decrease your risk of high blood pressure
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • increase your mental well-being

Active people are also more productive, sick less often, and at less risk for injury. Basically, becoming more active will improve your overall health, well-being, and quality of life.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology released the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines in 2011, in an effort to help Canadians become healthier and more active. The guidelines outline the amount and types of physical activity by different age groups that are required to achieve health benefits.

For adults aged 18-64 years, the goal is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, in intervals of at least 10 minutes or more. The guidelines also recommend adding muscle and bone strengthening activities that use major muscle groups, at least two days per week.

Moderate-intensity activities are those activities that will cause us to sweat a little and breathe harder. These include things like brisk walking and bike riding. Vigorous-intensity activities should cause us to sweat more and be “out of breath.” Activities like jogging, swimming, or cross-country skiing are considered vigorous-intensity and can be included as your endurance and fitness levels increase.

Does 150 minutes of physical activity per week sound overwhelming?
Breaking down the 150 minutes to 30 minutes per day, five days per week may sound more enticing and achievable for some people. In a very motivating visual lecture titled 23 and ½ Hours, Dr. Mike Evans discusses how 30 minutes of physical activity per day is the “single best thing we can do for our health.” If you have not seen the video, it is definitely worth checking out!

For many people who have never led an active lifestyle or played sports, becoming more physically active may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Start slow and gradually increase your daily physical activity to meet the guidelines. Move more and sit less throughout the day – remember, every move counts! Being active with co-workers, friends, and family is a great way to achieve your physical activity goals while having fun.

Resources to get you started:

  • The Physical Activity Line: British Columbia’s primary physical activity counselling service and free resource for practical and trusted physical activity information.
  • Healthy Families BC: A provincial strategy aimed at improving the health and well-being of British Columbians at every stage of life. The site contains great resources and information for health and wellness.
  • ParticipACTION: The national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. Through social marketing and collaborative partnerships, they inspire and support Canadians to live healthy, active lives. Great information and programs available!

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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International Walk to School Week (iWalk): put on those backpacks and walk!

A boy and girl walk to school, back packs on.

Mandy’s kids celebrating iWalk week as they head to school.

“Hurry up or you’re going to miss the bus!” Unfortunately, this phrase has been common in my household, every morning, since moving to Prince George last year. Despite my attempts to get my children ready for the day and despite the fact that it’s only four minutes from our house to the bus stop, they always dawdle and end up running out the door at the last minute! We came from a small city where there were no local school buses and most children walked to school every day. While I love the decision we made to move to beautiful B.C., I love my children more, and crossing busy Highway 97 would never, ever be an option for them! The fact that they do not have the daily option to walk to school leaves me, as a mother and an advocate for physical activity, putting thought into juggling of my own schedule to see how I can make time for them to walk with their friends on a regular basis.

October 6-10, 2014 is International Walk to School Week (iWalk) and during it, I will be making a conscious effort to have my kids off the bus and walking to school. This initiative is an annual global event by the Active and Safe Routes to School Program. It’s a mass celebration of active transport, promoting daily physical activity among kids, enhanced healthy environments and an overall sense of community.

Why should this matter to you? Did you know:

  • Two out of three Canadian kids are not getting enough exercise each day.
  • Active school transport (walking or wheeling) can increase a student’s ability to concentrate.

We ensure that our children are nourished to fuel their bodies, starting the day with a healthy breakfast and packing healthy lunches to sustain them during the day, but sometimes we forget the importance of their daily physical activity. Children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Getting kids walking or wheeling to school whenever possible would definitely contribute to meeting these recommended daily guidelines.

So, as my family has no plans to move from our current house to be closer to school anytime in the near future, the bus will be the usual daily mode of transportation for my children while they attend elementary school. However, this week I am going to celebrate iWalk with my children and drive them to school each day – parking a few blocks from the school and walking with them and their friends to the school grounds. On top of watching them walk with their friends, I’m also looking forward to getting some activity into my day as well!  Every move counts!

What is your family planning for iWalk?

For more info on iWalk check out:

http://www.iwalktoschool.org/whoswalking/canada.cfm

http://healthyschoolsbc.ca/program/334/walk-and-wheel-to-school-week

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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