Healthy Living in the North

Being a little more active

Four adults walking and jogging on a running track

How can you build 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity into your week?

For most of us, being a little more active is something that would bring benefits.

I don’t know about you, but it seems far too easy for me to be able to find some reason not to do my recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This is recommended for all adults, myself included, who are somewhere between 18 and 64 years of age. Well, at least I’m on some part of that spectrum – LOL!

One would think that doing 15 episodes of moderate to vigorous activity in ten minute periods should be easy. It’s easier than you think, but you may need to change your expectations and what you define as “activity.”

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines tell us to mix up moderate and vigorous intensity activities while also adding in muscle and bone strengthening:

  • Moderate-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat a little and to breathe harder. This includes activities like riding a bike or walking at a pace.
  • Vigorous-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat and be “out of breath.” This includes activities like jogging or cross country skiing.
  • Muscle / bone-strengthening activities help to build strength and balance. This includes activities like yoga or working with weights.

Here’s the link to the different guidelines for all ages. There are also very good suggestions for achieving your goals.

Baseball diamond.

What facilities exist in your community to support you to be more active?

So why does it feel so difficult to keep the activity going?

I think life continually gets in the way and while we’re motivated at some periods, there are always competing interests for our time and so it becomes easy to fall out of if it isn’t a part of our routines.

If you build it into your life, health will come!

Looking at the guidelines, it seems that if we try to do things that we are doing anyways in a more vigorous manner, then we might very well be able to meet our goal without having to change much. Vigorously rake the leaves. Take the stairs. Go for a walk at lunch time (even around the worksite or office if need be). Do the housework with gusto. Whatever helps! Perhaps even keep a record of it for a while and set some goals for yourself.

If you can, build some of those more structured activities into your routines, too. Try something new!

It will seem like work until it seems like life. Therefore, make your life the work you need to do for your health and become as active as you can in this moment.

Good luck and keep trying!

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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Routine isn’t always a bad thing!

Child playing on playground equipment.

Schedule outdoor time for children every day: The best way to encourage kids to sit less is to let them go outside.

The days are getting shorter and school doors are open, which brings homework, extracurricular activities and lots of time spent going from one place to the next in the car.

It’s a routine that we’re all used to, but an unfortunate side effect for the whole family is that more time is spent being sedentary. Although there’s often not much we can do about screen time (computer use) at school or work, there are ways to maintain those healthy summer routines into the fall and winter and keep yourself and your family moving.

At home:

  • Be a healthy role model: Set limits for your own recreational screen time as well as theirs. This includes your TVs, tablets, computers and phones.
  • Do chores together as a family that encourage getting outside: Raking leaves, shovelling snow, walking the dog, or biking to the store for milk instead of driving.
  • Schedule outdoor time for children every day: The best way to encourage kids to sit less is to let them go outside.
  • Be an active chauffeur: Don’t just sit in the car waiting on kids to finish up their activities. Use that time to get moving yourself and use active transportation when possible.

At work:

  • Build activity into your commute: Walk or bike to work when possible or carpool with a spouse or neighbour and walk from their workplace to your own.
  • Schedule movement: Set an alarm to go off every hour to remind yourself to stretch, move around, take some time away from the task, give your eyes a break and refresh your mind.
  • Take a walking meeting: Take your telephone call on the go while you stretch your legs, or encourage meeting participants to walk around the building while you talk.
  • Step up: Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Escape the lounge: Use some of your lunch break for physical activity. Get out of the lunchroom and go for a walk.
  • Go old school: Walk to a co-worker’s office to talk to them instead of calling or emailing.

Establishing active routines and spending less time being sedentary will leave you feeling happier and more alert and will improve your fitness and your social life! Making these small changes in our behaviours at home and work will over time become part of new, healthier routines.


A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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Attention parents! Do you have your back-to-school routines planned out?

Collage of kids going back to school.

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

As summer holidays wind down, excitement of the new school year is on the horizon. Getting ready for back-to-school season can be a stressful and challenging time for parents and families. Establishing (or re-establishing) healthy routines is an important step to making the transition back to school happy and successful for the entire family.

Consistent routines help children to feel safe and secure and teach them to know what is expected of them. To establish routines, begin practicing them a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. Remember to be positive role models for your children. Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence their attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically.

Try to ensure that you incorporate healthy eating, physical activity, and adequate rest and sleep into your family routines as you gear up for school. Start each morning off with a nutritious breakfast for everyone. Evidence shows that kids who eat a healthy breakfast do better in school, have increased concentration and have more energy. Also remember that snacks and lunches can be just as healthy as breakfast! Involving children in planning and preparing their lunch provides a chance for them to learn about healthy eating.

Collage of kids going back to school

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

Along with healthy eating, be sure to encourage your young ones to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. Spend time together being active as this will contribute to reducing screen time for yourself and your children. It also avoids unnecessary sedentary behaviour.

Ensuring that children get enough sleep (9-10 hours/night) is also important throughout the school year. Adequate sleep is essential to healthy growth and development. Sleep helps to promote alertness, memory and performance. This is why it is so important to establish consistent bedtime routines that will make it easier for your child to relax, fall asleep, and sleep through the night.

Remember that families are unique and there is no one-size-fits-all back-to-school routine. Choosing routines that will work for your family and sticking to them is what’s most important.

What does your back-to-school routine look like?

  • Make bedtime the same every night.
  • Plan for healthy meals.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Talk with your child every day.
  • Teach your child about safety.
  • Encourage independence.
  • Make homework a routine.
  • Prepare the night before.

This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Karen Wonders

About Karen Wonders

Karen was born and raised in Ottawa and over the last 30 years has lived in various cities and communities in Alberta and B.C. She has a nursing degree from the University of Victoria and currently lives and works in Prince George as a Public Health Nursing Program Manager. Karen is a strong advocate for the health of children and youth with her primary focus being in the area of "healthy schools". She is a director on the board of the Directorate of Agencies for School Health, which adds great value and is complementary to her. In her spare time, Karen enjoys travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and taking long walks with her dog Theodore.

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The Grizzly Truth: Setting a Healthy Sleep Routine

Falling asleep with Netflix isn't a good idea.Happy summer everyone! First, I would like to thank Trent for doing some citation checks last month when I questioned who coined the quote I used as a leading statement in my last blog post. We may make you an honorary member of the Grizzly Truth Internet Sleuthing Department. ;)

I hope you are enjoying the added daylight hours and getting the most out of this time of year, whether that’s fishing, camping, hiking, or any important seasonal rituals you may have. See what I did there?

One drawback to the extra daytime hours is that it may interfere with our sleeping patterns. Sleep is something many of us have occasional difficultly with and research indicates this can impact our overall wellness. Studies have identified that difficulty with sleep is a common issue for people with mental health concerns, but recently it has been questioned whether the difficulty with sleep was one of the contributing factors for an illness or if the sleep problems emerged as part of the illness. Regardless, there is consensus that practicing sleep hygiene is beneficial to our health.

Now, this is something I have set some personal goals around because when you start to look into the tips and practices that are encouraged for healthy sleep habits, I recognize that I have some improvement to do. Areas that pose challenges for me are: having a soothing pre-sleep routine, avoiding night-time clock watching, and being conscientious of nighttime eating and snacking. I can think of a number of nights where I thought I would try to catch up on Game of Thrones right before bed and then found myself lying awake and cursing George R.R Martin and his fondness for killing off beloved characters. Having my phone and iPad close by while I am sleeping also creates issues as I hear my e-mail notification noise and inevitably make the mistake of “quickly checking my e-mail” before calling it a night.

In my research into this, I found a great article offering 12 tips for improving quality of sleep, from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Furthermore, there are some really great resources you can access for free on YouTube around progressive relaxation and guided imagery that help you relax and can become part of a pre-sleep routine (see some resources below). Other tips, like avoiding stimulants such as nicotine in cigarettes or coffee before bed, can cause more of a challenge for those of us with habits, but might give you some food for thought if you are thinking about making other lifestyle changes.

Do you have a pre-sleep routine, or do you have any practices around sleep hygiene that you’ve found particularly helpful? Please share in the comments below, and I hope that by next month we’ll all be feeling well rested and relaxed so we can enjoy our brief but beautiful northern summer!

More resources:

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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