Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: Every move counts

A treadmill acting as a clothes hanger is unplugged and unused.

The unplugged treadmill, gathering clothes, a blanket, and dust.

Our modern world is heavily weighted against movement and exercise. It’s so bad that terms like sitting disease are now a normal part of conversation.

My level of activity decreased significantly after I got my first car. Before that time, I either walked to where I was going or, at the very least, walked to the bus stop. Eventually, I began to cycle to work. Going into Glasgow and getting to the hospital (where I worked at the time) meant taking two or three separate buses. The distance cycled was around 15 miles, there and back. None of this was done out of a sense of maintaining my well-being, but rather out of necessity. The positive side effect was that I was very healthy, in spite of my addiction to tobacco, which has since been kicked.

Now, if I walk, it is a planned activity. I suspect that this is the case for most people. Winter weather tends to discourage me from walking – too cold! Unfortunately, I also find that when I plan to walk, it often falls off my agenda. I even have a treadmill that doesn’t get enough action. And before you ask: yes, I do know better.

The trouble seems to be that exercise is difficult to schedule into our busy lives, despite how vital it is to our health. Exercise does more than just help the body, it has also been shown to help fight depression and releases chemicals that make us feel good. Great for fighting the winter blues!

One tip that I find helpful: make activity part of what you’re already doing so that it works within your schedule. For instance, yard work and household chores can be done quickly to simulate exercise, parking the car a distance from your destination can help you log some extra steps, and getting together with a few friends for an indoor winter walk can help make activity more convenient.

The evidence shows that adults need 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, but don’t just play the numbers game as that can be discouraging. Instead, try to start moving slowly and then keep moving every day. If you are stuck in the office, or behind the wheel and don’t think you can do it, try standing up (or pulling over) and walking about for a few moments every hour. Before long, you’ll start feeling better and you’ll want to be moving more. Remember, every move counts.

What tips do you have sticking to an active schedule? How do you stay active around the office?

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


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 Health Promotions and Communications officer 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 is learning to take advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her husband. She stays active with CrossFit and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.


Raise Children’s Grade, Bike to Work This Week!

A man rides his bike to work.

Embed activity into your day by biking to work!

You may have read about, or heard of, the recently published report which graded children around the world on their health in regards to physical activity.

Canadian children scored a D-.

But, you may be thinking, Canadians are doers! The more we can cross off the list, in the shortest amount of time, the better. This may sound like a recipe for energetic activity, but what it’s actually resulted in is a “culture of convenience.” Time is short, but my list is not.

Most of us drive everywhere to get everything on our list completed, even if being physically active happens to be on that list. We take a car, a truck, or a bus, so we can tweet and Facebook each other while we’re getting to where we need to go. Worse yet, this behaviour, this “culture of convenience,” is rubbing off on the children in our community, and we haven’t even added video games to the mix.

Don’t have kids? Well, imagine the average day for many Canadians. You wake up, go through your normal morning routine, then you get in a vehicle. You sit on your way to work; when you get there, you may be sitting for your entire work day before sitting in your car the whole way home again. Combine that with sitting for dinner, throw in a bit of evening television (which you’re sitting for) and voila! A sedentary lifestyle is born. It may feel busy, but that “busyness” isn’t physical.

Now consider this. Those who live a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease in their lives. On top of that, sitting for more than six hours a day can reduce your lifespan by as much as five years.

Studies show that being active every day is needed for health benefits. How often do you think this happens when it is just another item on a list?  It must be a regular part of our daily lives; it’s got to be normal.

So, on that note, take the steps to move more in your daily routine. The time spent on your way to and from work is a great time to introduce some physical activity to your day, and when better to start than on May 26th with Bike to Work Week! Across all of B.C., people will ditch their car keys in favour of bike helmets, improving their lifestyle in the process. Getting 30 minutes of physical activity a day can move you a long way towards reducing the risk of chronic disease and you’ll become a positive role model for the children in our community.

Let’s shoot for an A the next time our kids’ physical activity is graded in Canada!


Doug Quibell

About Doug Quibell

Doug Quibell is the northwest manager of public health protection, and the lead on Northern Health’s partnering for healthy communities approach. He first joined Northern Health in 1995. After stints in the Middle East and in Ontario, he and his family recently returned to the mountains and ocean they call home in Terrace. He stays active trying to get his daughter excited about skiing Shames Mountain and sailing off of Prince Rupert.


NH employees team up and earn $500 for the Spirit of the North Foundation

Claire and Angela

NH team members, Claire Radcliffe and Angela Wheeler.

On Sunday, July 15, 2012, Northern Health staff Claire Radcliffe and Angela Wheeler, both from Vanderhoof, participated in the Pomeroy Inn and Suites Inc. Prince George Triathlon held at West Lake Provincial Park. Entered as a two person team in the Olympic-distance triathlon which involved a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run, Radcliffe churned up a froth in the calm West Lake waters, then wound her way up and down a very challenging bike course while Wheeler warmed up to bring it all home on the hilly run portion.

Before the Prince George event, Radcliffe had participated in five previous triathlon events, but recently has been suffering from a running-related injury in the backside which officially announced itself as a problem not be ignored in a Terrace triathlon she completed just the previous weekend. Prior to the injury in the Terrace tri, Radcliffe had already signed up for the Prince George event and would face losing out on the race fees and all the fun. As Radcliffe felt she could still swim and bike, a solution was found: teaming up with Angela Wheeler, who, for several years, has been a willing and eager runner who participates in several races each year, ranging from trail runs to half-marathon road races.

For Radcliffe, the Olympic-distance event meant racing a distance twice as far as she had ever done before. For Wheeler, it was another run but in a fresh context of a triathlon.

The team woke up to freshly rained upon highways under black clouds to drive the hour into West Lake. Just over three hours after the 9 a.m. race start, a pleasantly tired and smiling Radcliffe and Wheeler were walking up to the post-race BBQ when the race organizer called them over. To their surprise, it turned out Radcliffe and Wheeler, who on a whim chose to enter the corporate challenge category as a Northern Health team, ended up earning the sole prize of a $500 dollar donation towards a charity of their choice.

And so, because Radcliffe didn’t let one of life’s “pains in the butt” prevent her from participating in an active life, and because Angela Wheeler was doing what a friend and coworker does, helping out in any way she can, the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation will receive the definitely not-insignificant cash donation.

How did Radcliffe feel about winning the donation opportunity?  She said she’s “excited and very pleased…tickled pink in fact!” And Wheeler said, “Take part in some good fun and great exercise and win money for a good cause while doing it? Sign me up for next year!

Greg Tone

About Greg Tone

Greg began working for the former version of Northern Health in 1999 in the field of environmental health where he continues to work today, except for a three year gap doing the same job in the Yukon. His favourite activity in the summer is to swim in the local lakes and rivers with the kids, and in the winter to go tobogganing and cross-country skiing – especially now that the kids (now 10 and 7) are old enough that they cannot convince him that they need to be pulled back up! Greg is always willing to try a new sport, such as biathlon or triathlon, and when relaxing he likes to read an old discarded paperback picked up for a quarter from the local library, particularly when he knows he should be doing the dishes.


Man up: Learning to take our own advice

Steve and his family

Steve, pictured here with his wife Shelley and children Michael and Alyson, was a torch bearer for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Given my recent entry into my forties, I like to think that 42 is the new 22. Well when 22 meets 42 on the soccer field, I’m not so sure. While I won’t go into the details of the clearly savage slide tackle targeted at me (in my opinion, anyway), I can tell you about what happened after. I remember people around me asking, “Are you hurt or are you injured?” – meaning if I merely “hurt,” then man up and get back out there. I didn’t go back in the game, but I did take two aspirin and head home, and not straight to the emergency room (which I know now was the wrong choice). But I mean, it was just a sprain, right?

So off to work on Monday. Much to my surprise, the interesting two-step stride I took down the hall to my office was not met with weekend warrior adulation, but rather with raised eyebrows and the repeated question of “why haven’t you gotten it checked out yet?”  So realizing the audience here was not my team, off I went, 24 hours later, to get the ankle checked.

Through our Northern Health men’s health consultations last fall, we learned that men in the north are raised in a culture where “living hard” is normalized from an early age. It’s ingrained in us to be tough and macho, and unfortunately this is leading to unnecessary illness, disease and early deaths in northern men. So yes, I should know better to take care of my body and my health.

But of course my self-diagnosis was just a sprain, and I figured I’d be back on my feet in no time. Well the doc entered the room, post X-ray, with a grin, and said, “You’ve done this before haven’t you?” I smiled a bit, telling him, “Yeah, both ankles, many times. Lots of sprains over the years, nothing ice and heat can’t take care of.” He nodded and told me that’s what he thought because it’s not a normal ankle anymore. Please note the smile disappeared from my face at this point.

He continued to tell me that there is evidence of two past fractures, numerous bone chips and lots of previous ligament and tendon damage in my ankle. In fact, the x-ray was hard to read because of all the junk floating around in there. He did agree with me though – it was a definite sprain this time!

Perhaps I should have taken the advice of the very organization I work for. I should’ve manned up and had some of those past ‘sprains’ checked out. Apparently I wasn’t merely hurt but I was truly injured….oops.

Have you ever had a moment of clarity when you realized you should “man up?”


Steve Raper

About Steve Raper

With nearly 10 years of experience, Steve is the Regional Director of Communications for Northern Health, where he leads marketing, communications, web and media relations activities. He has a business diploma from the College of New Caledonia, a BA from the University of Northern BC and a master’s degree in business administration from Royal Roads University. In his spare time, Steve volunteers on a number of boards, including Canadian Blood Services, Pacific Sport Northern BC and the Prince George Youth Soccer Association. To stay active, he enjoys camping, playing soccer and hockey, and coaching his children’s soccer teams.


Partnering to help keep kids active

Kids playing in the pool.

Depending on their age, children need between 60 and 180 minutes of daily activity for healthy growth and development.

Although I’ve worked with children for some time now, I have recently learned a lot as co-chair of a new group of community partners called Healthy Families Prince George. For example, did you know on average, children are spending six hours a day in front of a screen? This includes watching TV, or playing with non-active electronic devices such as video games, tablets, computers, and cell phones. Looking back to my own childhood, I remember playing outside until we were called in to eat…boy, times have changed!

Healthy Families Prince George formed in the fall of 2011 in order to discuss the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for children ages 0-6. Community partners involved include Success by 6, the City of Prince George, Northern Health, School District #57, the Prince George Public Library, Pacific Sport Northern BC and the Child Care Resource & Referral…just to name a few. Our goal is to empower families, educators, and community service providers to support children in Prince George to eat healthy, be physically active and reduce screen time.

Depending on their age, children need between 60 and 180 minutes of daily activity for healthy growth and development.

Being physically active can help children:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve movement skills
  • Increase fitness
  • Build healthy hearts
  • Have fun and feel happy
  • Develop self-confidence
  • Improve learning and attention
  • Improve language skills

Here’s a few ideas on how to keep your little ones active:

  • Create safe spaces for your children to play, indoors and outdoors
  • Play music and learn action songs together
  • Make time for play with other kids
  • Get where you’re going by walking or biking

And remember there is nothing more your little one likes than participating in physical activity and healthy eating with you, their role models!

How do you help keep your kids active?

For more info on guidelines around physical activity for children, visit our position statement webpage and specifically our snapshot on sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity.

Jenn Tkachuk

About Jenn Tkachuk

As the Children First Manager, Jenn works with the communities of Prince George, Quesnel, Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount to promote the importance of the early years, increase community planning and coordination, and improve service delivery for children, youth and families. Jenn has worked in the area of early childhood development for 10 years and holds a master’s degree in social work. To stay active, Jenn enjoys working in her yard, walking her dog and snowshoeing in the winter.


Choosing the choice of health

Theresa Healy running

Theresa Healy, loving running her first 5km race.

In less than a year of starting to exercise regularly and adding healthier choices to her diet, Theresa Healy, Northern Health’s regional manager for healthy community development, says she feels physically and mentally stronger – the best she has felt in her whole life. Last summer, Theresa was diagnosed with a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. After receiving the news, and struggling to come to terms with such a startling shift in her identity, she decided it was time to take action. I had the privilege to talk to her about her initial struggle and personal health breakthrough.

The first move that Theresa made was to monitor her diet. She didn’t completely cut out some temptations, such as chocolate, but she was committed to moderation.

“If I cut it out completely, it would be impossible for me to stick with it but, telling myself I could have some, helps me say no, at least most of the time,” says Theresa.

The second change was to become more active. She started with taking her two little dogs for extra walks, and after awhile, decided she would up the ante and try running.

“I never thought running would appeal to me. It seemed the epitome of boredom. But I decided I would try. Surprise – I loved it!”

To start off, Theresa set a target of five kilometers as the distance she would like to run. At first, she became exhausted after trying to run for even one minute straight and would have to take a breather. That’s where technology kicked in. Theresa found a free app for her smart phone called “Couch to Five K,” which sets bench marks for a person getting back into running or trying it for the first time. It started off with a two minute run, five minute walk cycle, and eventually progressed to the point where Theresa can now complete a warm-up walk of five minutes, run steadily and easily for 30 minutes, and cool down with a walk for five minutes.

After she was able to successfully run for 30 minutes straight, Theresa needed a new challenge. To keep pushing herself, she decided to enter her first 5km race. She finished the race in just over 37 minutes, something Theresa is very proud of. Now she looks to not only improve her time on the 5km race, but also improve her stamina as she prepares for a half marathon that she will run next year.

Theresa’s drive and determination to meet and exceed her goals is inspiring. She also now attends a gym to lift weights and work out in various other ways to stay fit.

“I got six free sessions with a trainer who didn’t want me running every day,” she says. “I was pretty peeved at first. I had just found something I liked and I was being told not to do it. Of course now I enjoy the gym as much as the running. I don’t have a six pack yet, more like a three and a half pack, but feeling fit is an amazing sensation. I don’t think I have been this fit since I played field hockey for my school – at 14 years old!”

After talking to Theresa and hearing her story, I think the key points to take from her experience are to set an achievable goal, to make a plan on how you will get there (like finding an app or program that guides you through the process or a friend that will push you along), and to put in the work. If you don’t put in the work, you won’t get the results.

Working in the health care industry herself, Theresa believes in promoting healthy choices to others. “We have to do it too. In order to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk,” she says in regards to healthy eating and active living.

I can tell you, Theresa is definitely living up to what she is promoting!

Jonathon Dyck

About Jonathon Dyck

Jonathon is a communications officer at Northern Health. Originally from Airdrie, Alberta, Jonathon has a broadcasting diploma from Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and a BA with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Jonathon enjoys golf, hockey, curling, hiking, biking, and canoeing. He is also an avid sports fan and attends as many sporting events as humanly possible, including hockey, soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball, and lacrosse.


Recovering from an injury? Slow and steady wins this race

Jonathon with Jay Feaster

Jonathon, with his crutches, posing with Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames general manager.

Ever had an injury that prevented you from participating in the activities you love? I’ve always loved to play team sports such as soccer, hockey, ultimate Frisbee, curling, and other activities including hiking, kayaking, and golf. Unfortunately, four years ago I hurt my knee playing soccer and the idea that I wouldn’t be able to do any of those while I recovered was more painful than the injury itself.

In December 2010 and July 2011 I went in for surgeries to repair my knee. The first surgery was to repair the meniscus, and the second was to repair my Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL). From the time that I hurt my knee, to the clearance from the doctor that my knee was good for most activities again earlier this month, it was very hard for me to not be very active.

With any type of injury, it is critical to take care of yourself and ensure you get the proper treatment you need to heal. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Immediately after my injury I went into the doctor, but being young and impatient, I made the impulse decision to play ball hockey anyway. Of course, this further damaged my knee and left me in a great deal of pain. After awhile, I finally realized I needed to take care of myself and I went back to the doctor to start on the path to recovery.

Prior to the injury I didn’t enjoy spending time at the gym, electing to get my physical exercise in other ways. But once I started going to the gym to do strengthening exercises for my knee, I found that being in a controlled environment like that helped me to ensure I wasn’t overworking my knee and potentially re-injuring it. Over time I have found activities at the gym that I enjoy and will continue to do even though I can now return to things like golf and hockey.

All in all, making sure to take care of myself after the surgeries meant being able to eventually return to the things I love. I learned that there’s no point in trying to be manly and walk off injuries.

My advice to anyone who has hurt themselves, especially men playing sports, is to man up and make sure to take care of your injury. For more information on men’s health, preventing and recovering from injuries, visit

Jonathon Dyck

About Jonathon Dyck

Jonathon is a communications officer at Northern Health. Originally from Airdrie, Alberta, Jonathon has a broadcasting diploma from Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and a BA with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Jonathon enjoys golf, hockey, curling, hiking, biking, and canoeing. He is also an avid sports fan and attends as many sporting events as humanly possible, including hockey, soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball, and lacrosse.


Salmon Run 2012: Bowering still winning races after March MANness Competition

Agnes Snow and Dr. David Bowering participated in the Salmon Run.

Agnes Snow, NH director of Aboriginal health, and Dr. David Bowering, medical health officer for the northwest, both participated in the Salmon Run and received medals.

Kitsumkalum hosts the Salmon Run every year, and this year’s was a great success with nearly 400 participants from across the north competing in an elders’ walk, 5k, and 10k distance runs.

I attended this year’s event, held on June 24, to hold down the men’s health booth so I could share information on living a healthy life with the area’s male population and the women who love them. Some of my colleagues were also at the event hosting booths on the topics of quitting smoking and nutrition.

A few staff members from Northern Health also competed in the race, with some even winning medals! Dr. David Bowering, northwest medical health officer, won the gold medal in the male 5km category, with a time of 28:56, proving that his controversial win in the March MANness Competition was no fluke! Director of Aboriginal Health Agnes Snow also participated, winning the silver medal in the female elders’ walk. Great work!

Even I participated in the run, but was far behind in the middle of the pack.

The spirit and energy at the 2012 Salmon Run was fantastic, and a great example of people of all ages coming together to promote healthier lifestyles. Congratulations to the event organizers for promoting wellness to the community and making northern health matter!

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling.