Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: Don’t resolve – just stay active!

Winter landscape

For Jim, his camera is “a fine companion that ensures that I will park my vehicle and get active by walking through the snow to take photographs of the scenes I’ve spotted.” How can you stay active in the winter?

As I look out my window at a cold, bleak day, all the revelry of the holiday season is fast dissipating, and I am now faced with a dreadful reality. Tradition dictates that I must somehow “resolve” to change in the new year. And so, off I go “resolving” to do many great deeds of magnificent valor!

It seems almost inevitable that these things, grand as they may be, are stopped in their tracks by mid-February by the lack of forethought or plan. This is why I’ve written about SMART and SMARTER goals instead of resolutions before! They work!

Don’t resolve, just stay active!

According to Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Living, activity plays an important role in quality of life and feeling of well-being that Canadians experience. It is also noted that active people live longer, more productive lives and are more likely to avoid illness and injury.

In the north, we are blessed by beautiful surroundings.

Getting out and enjoying the northern weather in winter is of course something that is wonderful. Just think of skating on a frozen lake on a sunny day, skiing or snowboarding on our amazing hills, or snowshoeing through the forest. And being active doesn’t have to mean snow sports, of course. Snow shovel, anyone?

With all of these activities, there should be a thought towards the issue of safety. Think proper footwear and clothing and a knowledge of the hazards of our beautiful northern winters, like the dangers of the cold and slipping on ice. Once prepared, then enjoy and have your spirits lifted!

Winter landscape in daytime

Heading out to take photos? Be sure to check the conditions and let someone know where you’re going!

For me, a camera is a fine companion that ensures that I will park my vehicle and get active by walking through the snow to take photographs of the scenes I’ve spotted. If you are doing this, I would suggest from experience letting someone know where you are going. Better still, take someone along for the ride! Remember to check out the weather conditions before setting out so that you can dress accordingly.

Not everyone can do the outdoors thing, but for those who can, there is often the bonus of fresh crisp air and the heat of the sun, even on the coldest days. Not to mention the birds, elk, moose and breathtaking scenery! For those with conditions like asthma who can’t tolerate the cold air, there is sometimes the opportunity to go to an indoor mall or other facility and either walk in a group or individually. Organized walks indoors also bring the benefits of being around other people so the activity is enhancing both physical and mental well-being. Look for these facilities in your local community and join a group. It will help with motivation!

Winter can be a trying time for all of us but with a little preparation and some forethought (think SMART goal-setting!) we can fill our winter months with activity and be healthier individuals and communities by spring!

So don’t focus on things like weight or resolutions. Rather, set a SMART goal, start moving and keep moving. It’ll do you good!

Stay well. Only 3 months left. Well, OK … 4, maybe 5?

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.

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Drop and give me twenty!

Army patch

The shoulder patch of the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. Reg was a part of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), which is an armoured regiment in the brigade. There, he learned a lot about motivation and physical activity!

The New Year is upon us and no doubt many of us are setting goals to become more physically active. If you’re one of those people, I have a question for you: How motivated are you?

If you don’t feel motivated, have you thought about joining the army? I can tell you from experience that it works! But why does it work so well?

One is that the army ensured that I got regular physical exercise. No matter what the weather, there was always the physical training that I took part in, no exceptions, no complaints allowed.

Second, the army has a set of specific goals and objectives that I was expected to meet. It has very specific, measurable goals, like being able to run a kilometer within a certain amount of time. Not to mention pushups!

Soldiers marching

Footage from Reg’s graduation parade.

And then there was the built-in motivator, otherwise known as the Master Corporal (the Canadian version of the Drill Sargent in basic training). He was the guy barking at me as I moaned and groaned my way through the obstacle course. Master Corporals weren’t always nice in their “motivational methods,” but you know what, for me, it worked. I ran that kilometer and did those pushups. I made it through the obstacle course.

Then again, it’s not necessary to join the army if you’re looking to get more physically active. But in reflecting on my own time, I think that some of the principles are the same and definitely taught me a lot. You need to make time for physical activity and do it. You need to set SMART goals and strive to reach them. You need to find your motivation.

I often see the scale or body measurements used as motivators. While it’s important to measure your progress towards your goals in other ways (like how many minutes of activity you did today), don’t get hung up on those numbers. Health is measured in more ways than pounds or inches. For some, buying something special upon reaching a milestone can be a motivator. However, that might not work in the end and it’s possible that your motivation may falter between milestones.

So, what are you to do?

Motivation needs to come from within if it’s going to last. Here are some suggestions for building up your motivation:

  • Make sure that you find ways to be active that you enjoy. Find activities that keep you coming back.
  • Focus on the experience. Enjoy the surroundings if you’re outside. Enjoy the camaraderie of team sports. Enjoy the solitude if you’re on your own.
  • Learn to recognize and appreciate the health benefits of being active. Enjoy your improved mood and increased energy.
  • Engage in physical activity as a way to reward yourself. A nice walk down a forest trail is a great way to relax after a long day at the office.
  • Keep challenging yourself. Walk an extra ten minutes or lift that extra ten pounds.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate your successes.
Medal

A medal from Reg’s time peacekeeping in Cyprus. What did his time in the army teach him about physical activity and setting SMART goals?

It can also help to let people know about your goals and ask them to help you stay on track. If your motivation slips a little, they’ll let you know (sort of like the Master Corporal did for me!).

I have to admit, writing this blog rekindled some great memories from the old army days.

Q: Is having a Master Corporal shouting in my ear one of them?

A: No.

Q: Would I push harder if he was standing there “motivating me?”

A: You bet I would.

As much as I enjoy the memories and the lessons, I’m not re-enlisting in the army for the motivation – not even for the food or the cool uniforms! But I’ll definitely use the things I learned about motivation to stay physically active in 2016!

The only person responsible for motivating you to be physically active is you.

Unless you join the army, and they take that responsibility very seriously, even when you don’t.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator 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. 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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Setting SMART goals

This article was written with the support of Mandy Levesque and Marianne Bloudoff. Visit our contributors page for more information about all of our blog authors.


 

With shorter days and cooler temperatures upon us, many will consider spending more time inside. However, it’s important to keep in mind that our bodies need to keep moving to stay healthy!

We now have more information about how spending the majority of our time sitting is not good for our health. We know that decreased physical activity raises our risk for a number of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can also affect our mental health.

This time of year provides us with a good opportunity to consider physical activity levels, and these tips will help steer you in the right direction:

Set goals for yourself and your family to meet Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.

Adults need 150 minutes of activity per week. Break that down and it’s just over 20 minutes per day, which should be achievable for most people.

If you’re just starting out, start slow. You can even break the guideline down to bouts of 10 minutes at a time, gradually working your way up to meet the recommendations. The biggest goal for all of us is to move more and sit less every day!

These goals apply to children as well. To achieve health benefits, kids need 60 minutes of activity per day. Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone!

Table defining the SMART goal acronym and providing a sample active living goal.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. What are your SMART goals for 2016?

Set SMART goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Grab a fitness buddy or activity partner.

Finding someone with whom to share our physical activity goals is one of the best motivators to keep us invested in staying active. Find someone who will go walking or try a new activity with you and make a plan! You’ll get to socialize with your friends or family and it won’t even seem like exercise! This goes for kids, too!

Wear proper footwear.

Having the right footwear for activity will ensure comfort and the ability to continue with the activity of choice. If you’re outside, make sure to have the appropriate footwear with good grip. You can also purchase additional grips for your shoes! Many communities offer indoor walking programs during the winter as well! Walking is one of the single most beneficial things for our health as almost anyone can do it and it’s free!

This winter, I would encourage you to take these tips, find an activity you enjoy, and have a very happy end to 2015 and start to 2016!

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.

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Staying motivated for healthy changes

Two runners outside

A group, team, or friend is a great way to stay motivated as you work towards your physical activity goals. The common goal of wanting to be more active brought Theresa’s group of activity seekers to marathons, local races, and other fitness goals!

If you put us all in the same room we look like a real rag, tag and bobtail crew. We are different ages, sizes, races and genders. However, we all have one thing in common: we all want to be more active. More specifically, we want to find ways of being more active that won’t worsen other injuries or ailments acquired over the years.

My northern group of activity seekers have settled on running. We are all on a journey to run a race. For some, it is a marathon (42 km); for others, it’s a half-marathon (21 km) or other race distance (8 km). They are personal fitness goals and we are all at different stages of that journey. Some of us are still using training wheels. Some of us run up the sides of mountains on a regular basis. But there are no differences in the levels of support and encouragement that each of us offers another.

Some of us are aiming for the Totem to Totem half-marathon on Haida Gwaii as our first racing endeavour. Others are aiming for the BMO Vancouver Marathon or Half-Marathon event (May 2015). These events are far enough away to seem possible at this point and fear has not yet kicked in. Yet, there is more to all this than standing at the start line and running to cross the finish line. Paying attention to nutrition, to exercising muscles, and to building stamina are all equally important to running well.

It motivates me to see this disparate group of people tackling the physical challenges of a race and the emotional and psychological barriers that interfere with putting it all out there. As we are all Northern Health staff, we are also really putting Northern Health’s words and policies around increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour into action. We really want our northern communities to get healthier and we can’t ask of others what we cannot do ourselves. And truly, if we can do it – then anyone can. We’ve set goals for ourselves and have stitched together a seemingly odd group of supporters, but we all believe in each other and will help each other get there.

What can you do to get moving more?

Find more information on our goals (or, set your own goals) here:


This article was first published in the February 2015 issue of A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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Active living: Every day, your way!

Young girl on a bicycle.

Biking to school, work, or other activities can be a SMART goal and can help children and youth meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

From the moment you wake up in the morning until the time you go to sleep, you make many choices that affect your health each day. You may not think that today’s choices will have long-term impacts, but choosing healthier options – especially when it comes to having an active lifestyle in your youth – can set the stage for a longer, healthier life.

Active living is a way of life that encourages people to include physical activity into their daily routines. An active lifestyle includes everyday activities, like walking or biking to get to school or work. You don’t have to be in organized or competitive sports, or join a gym, or run a marathon to be active – any moderate-paced activity counts!

So how much activity do youth need?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for youth 12-17 years recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. This should include:

  • Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week (cause you to sweat and be “out of breath”)
  • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week

You don’t have to get all 60 minutes at once.

Incorporating activity into your daily routines can be broken down into shorter periods throughout the day. Getting together with friends for a walk or any other type of activity not only adds a fun and social aspect but can also make time fly by. Going solo is always a choice too – putting on those headphones and heading outside for some fresh air can really get your body moving!

Man and two children building a snowman

Active living doesn’t have to involve organized or competitive sports! Build a snowman, try showshoeing, or just take a walk around your community.

Why is this important again?

The Active Healthy Kids Canada 2014 Report Card revealed that only 7% of kids aged 5-11 and 4% of kids aged 12-17 met the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Being active for at least 60 minutes daily can help children and youth:

  • Improve their health
  • Do better in school
  • Improve their fitness (endurance, flexibility, strength)
  • Have fun
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Feel happy
  • Learn new skills

So how do you get started?

One way to get going is to make a conscious effort to minimize the time you spend during the day being sedentary, which means doing very little physical movement.

Some examples of “being sedentary” include: sitting for long periods of time, watching TV, playing video games or being on the computer, and using motorized transportation. Trying something new can be exciting but also challenging, even intimidating for some people. Set SMART goals for yourself and ensure that you choose activities you like. You’ll have a better chance of sticking to the plan if you enjoy what you’re doing!

Table defining the SMART goal acronym and providing a sample active living goal.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. What are your SMART goals for 2015?

Where to get more information

The Physical Activity Line is a great, free resource for British Columbia residents wanting information on active living and provides helpful tips on goal setting.

Grab a friend, set a goal, and don’t give up – you can do this!

What are you waiting for?

Get out there and find an activity you want to try and have fun! Set your stage to be active for life!

 

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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Tales from the Man Cave: Motivation

Family walking outside. Text of the SMART goal acronym overlaid on picture

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For Jim, adding evaluation and repetition makes goals SMARTER!

I woke up this morning with a certain melancholy.

We all have days where we feel less motivated and more melancholic. As I sat and struggled to even begin to write, I suddenly knew that I had found my topic completely by chance: motivation.

Everything requires motivation and there is even a whole realm of psychology dedicated to it.

  • How do I make healthier choices?
  • How do I begin to eat healthier?
  • How do I get myself to move more often?

These are tough questions to tackle. I know that if I get up today, there is a good chance I will just continue on with my old habits. For lots of us, change is just not that easy.

I was looking for something different and I found it in SMART goals. SMART goals support healthy lifestyle changes by being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For me, I want my goals to be SMARTER, so I added Evaluate and Repeat.

Here are Jim’s SMARTER goals. Come on, Jim, let’s give it a try!

  • Make it specific, like walking for 20 minutes each day. Choose your desired change and set a goal for yourself.
  • Your goal needs to be measurable so you can see progress. Make a little chart. Put it somewhere you can tick off your progress.
  • Make sure it’s something achievable and that you can do it. Your goal might be to run the Boston marathon but you need to crawl before you can walk.
  • It’s very important that your goal is relevant to your main desire. Walking 20 minutes a day could be a relevant goal for the desire to run a marathon.
  • This leads us to the next piece: set an end date for your goal. Make sure you don’t sabotage yourself here. This is also a very important evaluation date.

Your goal should be realistic and be achievable within a certain time frame. This is a key element. Set small goals in small time periods.

In my example, I would say if the overall goal is to run a marathon, the specific goal might be to walk 20 minutes every day for three weeks. That’s all – but that’s also SMART.

For your goal to be SMARTER, the next step is to evaluate your progress. This is perhaps the most important part. Often when we do this, we may become disappointed. We may feel like we only achieved half our goal if we were only able to walk on certain days. If that was the case, I say: “Great! It was a success then. You moved!”

Your evaluation should accommodate this new information. Finally, you need to repeat the process.

If your first goal was not as realistic as you had hoped, set a more realistic goal, such as walking 20 minutes every other day. Create a new chart and tick those boxes. When you have achieved and evaluated your new goal, set another one and push the bar slightly higher than before.

Now it’s 25 minutes of walking every other day. Soon you will be jogging.

You can always shoot for the moon and land among the stars, but be sure to keep one solid, SMARTER foot on earth.

Good luck.

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.

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Motivating change

A device that measures your healthy activity and the smart phone where the info is displayed.

You can combine fitness and technology to help keep you healthy goals on track.

A few weeks ago, I wrote to you about New Year’s resolutions and setting up a plan to help you succeed. I have my S.M.A.R.T. goal written down to keep me on track, so how can I fail?!? If only it were that easy! This follow-up piece is to talk about motivation. Outside of having my wife, family, and friends support me to help me stay motivated, self-talk and a few props can go a long way in filling some gaps!

What happens when I miss my workout or smoke a cigarette or eat that extra rich dessert? At that point, negative self-talk has the potential to derail everything. How many times have you said to yourself, “I have blown it,” “I can’t do it,” “I am weak,” or “I am a failure?” Our self-esteem takes a hammering and makes it hard for us to do anything other than return to the behaviour we wish to change. Often, this leads us to continue to undo all of the good work we have accomplished.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Many studies have shown that kind and positive self-talk is the most effective thing you can do to stay true to your goals. “I am worthy,” “I can do this,” “I lasted two weeks last time and I can do better this time.” Try it the next time you have a setback. It has been shown that during a quit attempt from smoking, kind self-talk is as effective as nicotine replacement therapy.

Finally, as someone who enjoys technology, I have become very interested in wearable health devices and smartphone apps. For about $100 you can purchase a device to monitor and track your daily steps (for example, a Fitbit). This is a great way to see if you are as active as you think you are, track your daily and weekly goals, and even share your journey with friends and colleagues for some healthy competition.

 In 2013, it is estimated that over 35,000 apps are dedicated to health and fitness.

In recent years, the market for apps has exploded. You can find an app to do just about anything. I have an app that tracks my goals and sends me reminders when I need to run or exercise. I also have an app that counts my pushups when I touch my phone with my nose and cheers when I reach my daily targets. With these props, I am all set for motivating my new routine. I can hardly wait to get started!

You can also use SMS text messages to keep your motivation levels high. Two of my colleagues agreed to send each other a motivational, supportive message each day to keep on track. It’s a simple and effective plan and, so far, they are both reporting a positive impact to their healthy goals.

Power-up your self-esteem in 2014; Take control and imagine how healthy and happy the “future you” will be. The time you spend building resilience will pay dividends in the future. Be inspired and become the inspiration for your family and friends. You can do it!

What do you do to keep yourself motivated for change?

Michael Melia

About Michael Melia

Michael Melia is the director for northwest mental health and addiction services. He is a registered psychiatric nurse and has a bachelor’s of science in nursing and has recently completed a master’s in business administration. Michael is serving as an elected board member for the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, keeping fit and exploring rural B.C.

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