Healthy Living in the North

“Our solution was the boardwalk”: How a local hiking group provided everyone with the opportunity to enjoy a natural wonder

Man carrying plank

Volunteer Mitch Olineck carries a boardwalk plank.

One of the things that northern B.C. residents commonly appreciate about living in this area is our close proximity and easy access to nature and outdoor activities, like skiing, camping and hiking.

Unfortunately, this “easy access” doesn’t always extend to everyone and truly experiencing nature can be a difficult, even impossible, task for some. This is why the Prince George hiking club, the Caledonia Ramblers, undertook the ambitious project of building a universal boardwalk for the Ancient Forest, a popular trail system 113 km east of Prince George that features huge ancient cedar trees that are protected as part of B.C.’s rare inland rainforest.

“There has to be an equal playing field for all our citizens,” said Nowell Senior, Caledonia Ramblers President, “so all citizens have an opportunity to live a wholesome, inclusive life.”

Senior has been president of the hiking club for eight years and was a member for 10 years before that. He has seen the boardwalk, as well as the original Ancient Forest trail, come alive from initial idea through to extensive planning and final development.

Four hikers at trail entrance.

Hikers (from left to right) Nowell Senior, Gwen and Bjorn Norheim, and Don Austin at the entrance to the universal boardwalk.

The idea for the Ancient Forest nature loop trail was conjured up 10 years ago and was built in a six week period over the summer of 2006. The Ramblers knew the area was beautiful, with its unique stands of large, ancient cedar, but Senior and the hiking club never anticipated just how popular it would become.

“Each year, more and more people were coming out to the nature trail,” said Senior. “When we realized just how popular the Ancient Forest trail had become, we were aware of those in our community who could not have that experience, and our solution was the boardwalk.”

So, in 2010, the club began exploring the idea of the universal boardwalk and approached local and provincial sponsors. The response was “completely supportive and positive,” said Senior. The 450 metre boardwalk that would provide full access to the Ancient Forest would become a reality.

The project came to fruition thanks to the contributions of many generous sponsors and 200 volunteers. The volunteers helped to build and even carried a total of 60 tons of lumber (by hand!) from the parking lot to the furthest point of the eventual boardwalk (in order to have it safely tucked away after delivery).

Four seasons and 6,500 volunteer hours later, the universal boardwalk was completed in the fall of 2013. It is now a separate trail – fully wheelchair accessible with rest areas and benches along the way – that goes to a viewing platform above a stream and provides a lovely view of the cedars. In 2015, the Ancient Forest welcomed over 15,000 visitors, and the boardwalk was renamed the Nowell Senior Universal Boardwalk to recognize his amazing contribution and dedication to the project.

“I think that going out to nature, we get reacquainted with the natural part of our world,” said Senior, on the importance of being active outdoors. “We’re natural beings that depend on nature. We can sometimes become separated from it, and as a result we’re not living as wholesome a life as we could.”

Senior encourages others to look at their communities and find ways to improve their accessibility, whether it’s providing better access to a park or creating a better mobility trail. His advice to get started: “Form a group of like-minded people who feel the same way… Put the idea out to organizations and entities that could be helpful in promoting such a venture.”

Now, Senior says the Ramblers are going forward with more awareness of the need for inclusivity. “I would hope the enthusiasm with which the Caledonia Ramblers have approached providing full access to nature would be contagious and effect more groups to become involved in that work.”


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.

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In Prince Rupert, it’s not about creating a fancy new program, it’s about tearing down barriers

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Youth group with paddles.

Some youth participants in the Friendship House’s programs. When coordinators looked at their running, hiking, and swimming programs, they identified some barriers that were keeping youth away. With the help of an IMAGINE grant, those barriers have come down.

Northern Health’s recent community consultations and report on child health have centred around one question: What do children and youth need to be healthy in the north?

What has stood out for me following the consultations is how many of us agree that more physical activity and access to low-cost or free recreational opportunities for children and youth support health and an overall sense of wellness.

But what if access (or, rather, lack of access) to supplies, equipment, or basic needs like running shoes or swimwear prevents access to recreational opportunities for children and youth? What can a community do?

The Friendship House Association of Prince Rupert’s Basic Needs for Healthy Choices Project took on this challenge.

The goal of the project was to provide supplies and equipment to youth to encourage increased physical activity and more opportunities for the youth who took part in programming at the Friendship House. What I especially like about this project is how it looks at addressing a healthy living challenge (low physical activity rates) by looking upstream. It’s not about creating a fancy new program, it’s about tearing down the barriers that prevent people from accessing existing programs. I think that this is an important way to think about healthy communities!

Staff at the Friendship House looked for opportunities to remove barriers to participation in youth activities.

Staff at the Friendship House looked for opportunities to remove barriers to participation in youth activities.

Staff found that youth did not have the funds to purchase shoes or clothes for both organized and drop-in activities at the centre. Through funds provided by an IMAGINE grant, the Friendship House bought supplies to support youth to join in the hiking and running club as well as swimming outings. Funds also supported the purchase of a variety of equipment for gym and fitness opportunities for youth during the drop-in times and scheduled fitness sessions.

Through the efforts of this project, staff at the Friendship House has seen youth participation numbers increase significantly each month (more than double previous numbers) and have even had parents join in on some of the activities.

According to coordinator Vince Sampare:

The youth that benefited from this grant were so excited for the equipment and runners that we provided to them to take part in the activities we provide in the Youth Hub.

How can you reduce barriers to participation in your community?


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

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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Cars and bikes and joggers, oh my!

Dog sitting on road

Our long summer evenings provide a great chance for all of us (including our four-legged friends!) to get outside! Walkers, joggers, cyclists, drivers, and others are all road users and we all have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe!

Summer is in full swing and I am headed outside every chance I get. With our long summer days, I spend a little longer out walking the dog in the evenings and my kids are constantly asking if we can get out and ride our bikes in the neighborhood or, better yet, on the local trails.

I admit, when I am driving home from work, I sometimes do not give much thought to road safety. Yes, I pay attention to the road, drive the speed limit, and slow down for playground zones, but otherwise I am just enjoying the warm sunshine filtering through my sunroof as I drive along, feeling safe and enclosed in my car.

When I’m walking the dog with a couple of children who are blissfully unaware of potential hazards, though, I find myself acutely aware of road safety. I keep an ear open for an approaching car and am checking each driveway to ensure there is no one about to back out. People who walk, jog, and ride their bikes are road users. Vulnerable road users. Even people who ride motorcycles are considered vulnerable because they do not have an enclosed vehicle for protection. In Northern Health, people who ride motorcycles and those who choose to walk are at the most risk for hospitalization or even death in the event of a crash with a vehicle.

I learned several interesting facts in the Provincial Medical Health Officer’s report: Where the Rubber Meets the Road.

Did you know?

  • A person walking has a 90% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 30 km/hr.
  • A person walking has a 20% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 50 km/hr.
  • Children who are struck by a car were most often not playing in the street and were usually struck mid-block.
  • Older adults walking our roadways are the most vulnerable and have the highest rates of injury of all age groups.

Walking, cycling, and jogging along our northern roads is part of the reason we all love to live in the North. We love to get outside and enjoy the long summer days with our friends (and good old dogs!). All of us in our many roles as road users have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe.

Keep in mind:

  • Older adults may need a little more time than the crosswalk light provides.
  • Playground speed limits save lives. Slow to 30 km/hr or slower between dawn and dusk.
  • Families may be out walking so take the time to double check before backing down the driveway.

Together we can all have a fun and safe summer in the great outdoors!

More information

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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Exploring the outdoors! Geocaching in Hudson’s Hope

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Family geocaching

Get outdoors and give geocaching a try this summer! The Playground of the Peace is a great spot to try this activity!

What’s geocaching? Community members in Hudson’s Hope know!

The District of Hudson’s Hope received an IMAGINE Community Grant in 2015 and were able to start a community geocaching program for residents and visitors to the area. It’s a great way to be active, connect with friends and strangers, and enjoy the outdoors!

So, what is it?

The District describes geocaching as

a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates [using a GPS receiver or a mobile device] and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

The District of Hudson’s Hope Geo-Adventure is a series of hidden geocaches in the Hudson’s Hope region. Residents and visitors alike can search for all the caches and complete the Geo-Adventure Passport to receive prizes.

In 2015, the District of Hudson’s Hope applied for an IMAGINE Community Grant and they used the funds from their successful application to purchase caches, GPS units, and trackable coins to get their program started. The goal for the project was to increase awareness of geocaching and to get people outdoors exploring nature, all while promoting healthy living. Another goal was to develop a recreational program that could increase tourism to the area.

Looking back, Becky Mercereau with the District of Hudson’s Hope reflects on the program:

The greatest impact was getting community members outdoors and enjoying active living. There are now 29 geocaches within our boundary, which is an increase from the 9 that were already created here at the beginning of the year. People who joined us in the treasure hunting really enjoyed all the locations; they found them while enjoying the wonderful outdoors of our Playground of the Peace.

Geocaching coins

The District of Hudson’s Hope used their IMAGINE Community Grant funding to purchase trackable coins and build their Geo-Adventure!

Want to try something new this summer? Head to Hudson’s Hope and complete their Geo-Adventure! For more information on geocaching in Hudson’s Hope, visit the District’s geocaching website. For more information about geocaching, join the world’s largest treasure hunt!

If the success of geocaching in the District of Hudson’s Hope has you thinking about active living projects for your community, get your project ready for the next round of IMAGINE Community Grants! The next call for applications will be September 19, 2016.


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

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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Cast away my friend!

Fly rod and ties

For Reg, “Fly fishing is truly an art. It’s the art of reading the water and finding that elusive quarry. It’s the art of picking the right fly and casting it so smoothly that it barely ripples the water’s surface when it lands. However, it all begins with the art of convincing your wife that you need to go fishing.”

I have to admit, the last few weekends have been busy. Between laying flooring, hanging a door, and cutting/installing/painting trim and baseboard, there’s been little time for anything else. Well, not much other than multiple trips to the hardware store and re-hanging the door because the walls aren’t straight and I wasn’t happy the first time around!

But now that I’m finished renovating, I can turn my attention to more important things. It’s time to go fishing!

Now, I’m not talking about fishing from a boat or sitting in a lawn chair beside the Skeena River with your rod in a rod holder. I’m talking about putting on the neoprene waders and getting out fly-fishing.

Have you ever tried it?

Brook trout

A brook trout is one of several fish that you can find in our region’s rivers!

In addition to being fun, fly-fishing has some real health benefits.

  • Fly-fishing is a great way to get some exercise, as you need to move around to do it. As well, there’s the resistance provided by walking in water and weight from wearing a vest filled with gear. Fly-fishing is low impact and provides exercise for your upper body as well as your lower body. Try spending a day fly casting and wading through a stream. I guarantee you’ll feel it at the end of the day!
  • Fly-fishing is a great way to challenge yourself mentally. It takes skill and knowledge to read a stream and find those elusive fish. There’s also a bit of practice needed when it comes to casting a fly rod. But don’t be discouraged! The basics can be learned quickly and after a bit of instruction, you can be out there casting away. To be honest, fly-fishing can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it.
  • Many fly-fishermen also tie their own flies. My stepfather, who was a great fly-fisherman, tied his own flies and built custom fly rods. He even sold enough flies to buy a camper for his truck! If you enjoy being creative, fly-fishing provides many ways to express that creativity. But be warned, it takes a lot of flies to pay for a camper!
  • Fly-fishing is also a great way to reduce the stress in your life. It takes you back to nature and helps you focus on the moment. It can also provide a chance to socialize with other anglers. That said, if solitude is what you prefer, being alone on a beautiful stream is a great place to be.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard that eating fish can be part of a healthy diet, too, as fish are a good source of Omega-3 fats. Why can’t that source be a freshly caught trout or salmon?
Fish in a net

“The best fish stories begin with small fish and big imaginations.”

Now that you’re itching to go fishing, here are a few things to remember:

  1. Always check the regulations and make sure you have the appropriate licences.
  2. Make sure you’re prepared for the weather.
  3. Let someone know where you’re going.
  4. Take the appropriate precautions in bear country.

Northern British Columbia has some great opportunities to catch a variety of fish. Why not give fly-fishing a try? After all, what’s the worst that can happen, other than getting hooked?

Just don’t expect me to tell you where my sweet spots are!

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Quitting is hard, what’s your story? Wrap-up and Fitbit winner!

20160614-QuitStoriesWrapUpSince World No Tobacco Day (May 30) Northerners have been sharing their ‘Quit Stories’. I’d like to share a few more of the stories that came in, but first, many congratulations out to Melanie in Fort St. John whose name was drawn in the story entry contest to win a Fitbit Activity Tracker. Congratulations Melanie!

You may remember reading Melanie’s positive quit story. She shared that after several attempts using a variety of methods she is currently 6 months smoke-free! Her parting words:

If you really want something you will achieve it!

We know quitting is hard, and for some, the quit comes when it absolutely has to. As in this story shared by Erica in Prince George:

My brother has smoked for 36 years. Recently he had pneumonia and a collapsed lung. It was only then that he quit. He always wanted to, but said that he would go through such bad withdrawals that he would just start smoking again. A doctor he saw, told him that his lung capacity was only about 38%, and that he needed to quit right away. This scared him so badly, that he quit. The truth was that he was so sick, that he could not smoke, he could hardly breathe. Now he tells me it was the best thing he ever did for himself. It was just too bad that it took such an extreme situation for him to quit.

Nicole, in Terrace, found health a strong motivator too – but realized quickly how much money she saved as well!:

I moved to Terrace in 2008. After 10 years of smoking, and being an asthmatic, I had been hospitalized hundreds of times. Each time becoming more and more serious. When we moved I felt this would be a great time to quit, new town new me. It was incredibly hard. I never thought about the stress of a new town along with the cravings to smoke and at the time my partner was still smoking. I continued and was successful and then was able to encourage my partner who then quit in Dec of the same year. It’s been 8 years now and we are both healthier and happier. The monies we saved from smoking we now use to go on holidays. We continued to move the money we were spending on cigarettes into an account we opened and labelled “holiday” it’s amazing how much money we were spending without realizing it. This gave us a twofold benefit. We are healthier and we have holiday money which we were not previously making a priority.

Many more stories came in and I wish I could list them all, but space will allow me only to thank everyone who shared their quit story and entered the contest. We are all touched by tobacco use and it takes a lot of hard work and determination to quit –but it helps everyone around you when you do.

Do you want to quit? Speak with your health care provider and for information and free support to help you, visit QuitNow or call 1-877-455-2233. You can also ask your pharmacist how to access information and FREE nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Foodie Friday: A hiker’s power food

I admit it: I’m a little sad to see my snow sports and equipment go into an early retirement this year. However, there’s one activity in particular that I’m more than happy to get an early start on this year: hiking! Northern B.C. is known for its stunning wilderness and unparalleled hiking trails. As a Vancouver Island transplant, I have an immense appreciation for the outdoors but have yet to discover the vast network of outdoor trails that northern B.C. has to offer. If you see me daydreaming at work while gazing out of the window, you can bet that’s where my mind is wandering!

Cookies on a plate

Because of their energy boost, fibre content, delicious flavour, and packable qualities, the Power Cookie is a staple of Karli’s hiking meal plan!

One of the most important parts of hiking, as well as any outdoor activity that makes you break a sweat, is getting proper fuel and nutrition to stay energized. Depending on how long and how intense your hike is, you can burn a pretty significant amount of calories each day. On overnight hikes, it’s especially important to plan your meals to make sure you’ve brought enough food to eat while still considering how much weight you’re carrying. Check out Mountain Equipment Co-Op’ websites on backcountry meal planning and backcountry cooking for awesome tips and meal ideas.

One food has remained a staple in my hiking meal plans for as long as I can remember: the Power Cookie. I make a batch of these little energy balls for hiking for a few reasons:

  • Oats, whole wheat flour, and applesauce give your body the carbohydrates it needs to refuel energy stores and fibre to help digestion.
  • Dried fruit, dried coconut flakes, and orange zest give these cookies a sweet and tangy taste.
  • They’re easy to make and pack into the trails!

The Power Cookie

Yields about 20 two-inch cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 ½ cups large-flake oats
  • 1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup diced dried apricots
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, and eggs. Blend well. Stir in the applesauce.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this mixture to the applesauce and mix well. Stir in the almonds, oats, coconut, apricots and cranberries. Ensure the mixture is well-blended. Chill the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Form the dough into 1″ x 2″ bars or balls and place on a large baking sheet. Press each one down with a fork to flatten slightly.
  5. Bake on the centre oven rack for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden brown. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.
Karli Nordman

About Karli Nordman

Karli is a Dietetic Intern completing her internship throughout Northern Health. She has had a growing interest in food and nutrition for as long as she can remember and is a big advocate for a food first approach to overall health and happiness. Her passions are evenly divided between her career path and being outdoors - which makes northern B.C. the perfect place to both learn and explore.

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Just stop and play

Mother and child walking in forest

“Outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience, and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.”

With our busy lives and commitments to our children to be sure their everyday needs are met, we often forget to just stop and play with our children.

Today is a chance for us to look at the benefits of outdoor play. I want to encourage all caregivers to connect with their children outside, no matter what the weather forecast says! If it’s raining, put on your rubber boots and play in the rain and splash in the puddles. If the sun is poking through, slap on the sunscreen and go outside and play.

Encourage fun, self-directed, free-range play!

Today, children are often scheduled with structured activities such as hockey and soccer practices and piano lessons. Equally important to these scheduled opportunities is the free time for children to dream and explore their own limits. This outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.

Play – how much is the right amount?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 180 minutes (3 hours) of daily physical activity for children ages 3-4 at any level of intensity. The guidelines then change for children ages 5 and up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous play per day.

Unfortunately, only 14% of children are meeting these guidelines. This drops to only 5% who are meeting the guidelines for children aged 12-17.

How to play?

Reduce screen time. Unplug and play. Make playing and exploring our neighbourhoods the reward rather than more screen time. Let’s embrace the beauty of living in the north! Everything is so accessible and nature is all around us. And it’s free! This may mean letting the child take the lead. You may get a glimpse into what the world looks like through your child’s eyes: spending time bent over exploring the colour in the rocks or examining pussy willows that you revisit later as they become leaves throughout the spring.

The benefits of play are across the board

The most obvious is that it is fun, but play also helps release tension, develops imagination, and allows for problem-solving and mastering new concepts. Play builds self-esteem, leadership skills, and reduces anxiety. Playing socially builds on co-operation and sharing as well as increases our children’s ability to resolve conflict. Outdoor play helps with gross motor skills, which build strong hearts, muscles and bones. Being active everyday as a child helps develop a lifelong habit of daily exercise as an adult.

Finally, be a good role model. Live an active life and rediscover the fun and freedom of outside play. While encouraging the whole family to “wear the gear,” wear your helmet when biking or skateboarding together. Turn your cell off. Make play a priority. Set aside time every day for free play and a chance to connect and have fun with your child today.

Reflect back to your own childhood playtime. I want to encourage everyone to build those same quality experiences for our children today! Let’s get everyone outside and active, having fun while promoting safe, active outdoor play.

Sandra Sasaki

About Sandra Sasaki

Sandra is the Children’s First Manager. In this role, she supports local committees and groups in Prince George, Quesnel, the Robson Valley and Mackenzie to work together to assess, identify and plan for the unique needs of young children. Sandra has lived and worked most of her life in Prince George where she and her husband are active members of the community. She enjoys weightlifting and working out at the gym, painting, skiing, camping, and fishing. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her family as she is the proud mother of three daughters and a grandmother of seven.

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Risky play and the freedom to roam

Take a moment and reflect back on your own childhood experiences.

  • What did you love to do?
  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • Why was this So. Much. Fun?!

If you look back on your own childhood memories of play, would any of that be considered unsafe today?

Boy beside a tree

Give kids the freedom to decide how high to climb! This spring, Denise’s key message for outdoor play is to value health & fun as much as we value safety.

To kick off the spring, I’m excited to talk about promoting active outdoor play with the message that we need to value health and fun as much as we value safety. The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth revealed that to contribute to the health and wellness of children today, it’s imperative to get our kids outside, to give them the freedom to roam, and to take risks in their play.

Risk is often seen as a bad word that makes many people nervous, but let’s explore that a bit. When we look at risk in play, we are talking about play that allows children to recognize and evaluate a challenge and then decide on a course of action according to their own abilities. This definition of risk in play allows for the thrill and excitement that we all cherish from our own childhood memories.

When are talking about risk in play, that doesn’t mean allowing children to court danger that could cause life-altering serious injury. Allowing for risky, active outdoor play is not about being negligent or reckless. It’s not about skating on a half-frozen lake, or sending a preschooler out to the park alone. We as adults and communities still have a responsibility to eliminate the hazards: those situations that a child cannot assess for themselves and offer no benefit to the play experience. It is about promoting “As safe as necessary, not as safe as possible” and encouraging the balance of valuing health and fun as much as we value safety.

This discussion often invokes a bit of panic in parents, caregivers and leaders who feel responsible for safety in their communities.

But again, what we are discussing here today is the balance between:

  • Eliminating and protecting our children from life-altering or life-threatening hazards while
  • Allowing for and, in fact, encouraging some of the risks that come with sending children outside to play.

Indeed, the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card found that the biggest risk to children’s long term health and development is actually keeping kids indoors!

And so, with spring melting snow and bringing new colours back to our yards, parks and neighborhoods, let’s give children the freedom to decide how high to climb that tree, to explore the woods, get dirty, play hide & seek, wander, balance, tumble, rough-house, and experience the outdoors. Because the evidence tells us that when children are outside they:

  • Move more,
  • Sit less, and
  • Play for longer

and these are all associated with improved physical health and fitness as well as mental health, social wellness and fun. Exactly what memories are made of!

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Another 11 ways northern B.C. residents invest in their health!

The “Invest in Healthy Aging” contest is now in its final week and the stories of healthy living in northern B.C. just keep rolling in! Thank you for sharing your inspiring ideas!

I’m so excited to be able to share yet another set of stories from every corner of northern B.C.! If you want even more ideas for healthy aging, don’t miss the Week 1 and Week 2 summaries!

Remember that you can enter the contest once a week so keep the ideas coming! How do you invest in your body, mind, and relationships?

Father and daughter running

Clay invested in his health by running a half marathon on his birthday! “My daughter was so proud of me and wants to become a runner. About 200 metres before the finish line she jumped out and finished the race with me. The six weeks of training was worth it.”

In Chetwynd, Clay’s commitment to healthy living is inspiring his daughter – a new aspiring runner!

I’ve been into running half marathons lately. I was going to be in Vancouver the first week in February and saw that there was the Hypothermic Half on February 6, which was my birthday. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday! My daughter was so proud of me and wants to become a runner. About 200 metres before the finish line, she jumped out and finished the race with me. The six weeks of training was worth it. I beat my target time by 4 minutes. Looking forward to the next one in May!

Tammy in Quesnel has found ways to stay active around her kids’ busy sport schedules!

Being a mom of 2 teenagers, it is very hard to have a schedule of my own, between working and driving the kids to their sporting events. Like any mom with active kids, I feel like a taxi driver going to soccer, volleyball, softball, hockey practices or games. In order to keep up with the kids and get in some exercise time of my own, I will go for a short walk at the beginning of their practices or games. That way, I can still watch them (because they always look to make sure Mom is watching!)!

Remember all of the pets that promoted healthy aging in week one? Ginger is a high-energy dog who has helped Emily in Quesnel invest in her health!

My husband and I adopted our high energy dog Ginger in 2012. Ginger requires a lot of exercise and mental stimulation on a daily basis. She gets excited to go for walks, hikes and snowshoeing and to just be included with the family. When Ginger is happy, we are happy. It is amazing what fresh air and a healthy dose of exercise can do for your mind and relationship!

Group photo at a circuit class

Helena takes part in a regular circuit class with friends! How do you stay active?

A circuit class in Smithers has paid dividends for Helena’s health!

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, we go to Aileen’s Circuit Class at Lake Kathlyn School! It’s great to work out with an awesome bunch women. I was first invited to attend in November and loved it! We have a group that attends and it’s fun to work out together!

Gretchen in Quesnel has seen a local running group benefit her mind, body, and relationships!

Two years ago, I signed up for a walk/run group at a local running store (Reason2Run). I am now running 25 km trail races. Although it is not a team sport, I have met a great group of people of all ages that create the team spirit with every run. Some of the side effects of this adventure have been a healthy heart, happy spirit, fresh air to cleanse my mind […] At 53 years old, I feel better than I ever have.

For Chris in Fort St. John, healthy aging boils down to three components of walking outside!

Getting vitamin D, holding hands and experiencing the everyday.

Deanne in Quesnel is testing the waters with a few different activities! What would you suggest she try next?

I am working on trying to eat healthier by having the fridge stocked with healthy snacks and veggies and eating out less often. I struggle with getting out for exercise but am making a concerted effort to get out and experience as many different activities as I can in the hopes that something will become a passion. I have recently tried cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, which were a lot of fun.

Also in Quesnel, Beverly has come up with amazingly creative ways to stay active without much impact!

I am not a candidate for extreme anything! I have an artificial knee, complex scoliosis, and arthritis, so mild to moderate activity with no impact is more my bag. This morning for instance, I did 5 modified push-ups on the edge of my tub before I showered; jumped onto my little stepper that I have on my sundeck for 5 minutes while my puppy went to do his business in the yard; and then while I was pumping gas, I did as many step-ups onto the fuel pump island as I could while my tank filled!

Three friends with mountain in background

In her 60s, Carol and a friend discovered geocaching – a fun and healthy adventure! What new activities can you try to invest in your health?

In Atlin, a new hobby has taken Carol off of the couch and around the world!

In 2012, a friend and I were in our early 60s and decided to stop being bookworm couch potatoes. My friend discovered geocaching and we took to it immediately. Getting lost in the bush was almost as much fun as succeeding at finding geocaches! We found ourselves walking, hiking, scrambling up cliffs and under bridges, and learned to use a GPS. We just had to spread this fun to others and gave introductory workshops to participants from 11 to 81 years of age. It’s taken us to 5 countries so far!

In Prince George, life is a slice for Hilda!

I go by the saying “life is a slice.” I have a slice of everything I enjoy every day. I keep an open agenda and have a bit of several enjoyable activities each day. Beginning with morning tea/coffee and catching up on Facebook with friends, a walk, a book, time with grandchildren, healthy cooking. Every day is a pie divided into appropriate slices and savoured all day long. At the end of the day, I enjoy a good night’s sleep and then it starts all over again :)

A move from Prince George to Haida Gwaii has resulted in new opportunities for investment for Ann!

I have recently made a huge investment in my body, mind and relationships. I have retired and moved from Prince George to Haida Gwaii. Here, I am learning to listen to myself and becoming calmer. I am recharging myself by doing things I love: being outside, creating with my hands, and best of all enjoying a huge eclectic community of caring, thoughtful and compassionate people.

I want to keep sharing stories but there’s just not enough room! Thank you everyone for sharing your healthy living ideas so far! Your investments in healthy aging are creative, inspiring, and powerful! The contest runs until the end of February so enter today! You can still win one more weekly prize or the grand prize of a $150 gift certificate to the local sporting good store of your choice!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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