Healthy Living in the North

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8-1-1 & PAL: Physical activity in the north – the opportunities are endless!

Woman on a bicycle

Need some inspiration or support for World Physical Activity Day? HealthLink BC now includes qualified exercise professionals and physical activity information!

Exercise professionals have joined the suite of services available via HealthLinkBC! Now, no matter where you live in northern B.C., if you’re looking to make a lifestyle change this year but you’re not sure where to start, HealthLinkBC can help!

HealthLinkBC is a completely free resource that provides access to invaluable health information and advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week either online, via mobile app, or by simply dialling 8-1-1 from your phone. Until recently, the health professionals available to the public via HealthLinkBC included health services navigators, nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists. The HealthLink team has now expanded to include exercise professionals from the Physical Activity Line.

What to expect

When you dial 8-1-1, you’ll be greeted by a health services navigator who will provide you with general health information and advice and/or connect you with the appropriate health care professional to address your concern. You have the option of either creating a profile or remaining anonymous during your conversation, so it’s a very “low risk” conversation.

If you are phoning for physical activity advice, the exercise professionals are a great resource for evidence-based information for all ages and abilities. They are equipped to provide general physical activity screening; information on healthy living; advice on how to get and stay active; individualized physical activity prescriptions; and referrals to physical activity programs available in your local area. I wasn’t sure that this would be the case for residents of smaller communities in northern B.C., but the nice gentleman I spoke to assured me that if there are resources and programs available, they will locate them for any area of B.C.

For example, if you’re calling from Vanderhoof, they may inform you about the accessible paths with nearby playground at Riverside Park, the cross-country ski trails at the Nechako Valley Sporting Association grounds, or the drop-in badminton club that meets at the local high school.

The exercise professionals will also provide comprehensive assistance with facilitating and supporting behaviour change, including advice on overcoming barriers, setting realistic goals, and even coming up with a backup plan to prevent or correct a relapse into unhealthy habits.

Considering the number and the remoteness of communities in northern B.C., it’s pretty amazing that today’s technology makes the region and its opportunities and services so much smaller and easier to navigate.

More information

  • Translation services are available in more than 130 languages
  • Services for those who are hearing impaired are available by dialling 7-1-1

Who is available when?

  • Health services navigators & nurses: 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year
  • Dietitians & exercise professionals: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Pharmacists: 7 days/week, 5 p.m. – 9 a.m. (when a community pharmacist is unavailable)

A version of this article was originally published in the spring 2017 issue of Healthier You magazine. Read the full issue – all about shrinking geography and accessible services – on ISSUU!

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Try something new for World Physical Activity Day

A sunny forest path.

A stroll, leisurely or brisk, down a sunny forest path (of which we have many in northern BC!) is a great way to get moving!

Spring is here…for real this time! My calendar says so, therefore it must be true. As we begin to emerge from our winter “hibernation” period, the 15th annual World Day for Physical Activity on Thursday, April 6 gives us an excellent opportunity to welcome the season that celebrates new beginnings. So, why not use this day as a springboard (pun intended) to get out and try something new?

Maybe you’ve always wondered about a certain activity or sport, but haven’t yet managed to fit it into your routine. It could be something as simple as walking or running a new trail, going on a geocaching venture, or checking out a drop-in soccer league or fitness class. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern (sleep, eat, work, Netflix, repeat) and feel that there just isn’t time for anything else, but I promise you, that Netflix episode that’s calling your name will still be there when you return from your adventure. You might even discover your next favourite activity, and if so, you will somehow manage to make time for it to continue.

Nearly 20 years ago, my sister took me on my very first overnight hiking trip. I had no idea what to expect and was quite ill-equipped for the experience; in fact, I remember creating a makeshift raincoat from a garbage bag when the weather unexpectedly turned nasty. Regardless, I fell head over heels in love with backcountry hiking and camping and INSIST on doing it every year. In my opinion, there is no greater feeling than throwing everything you need to survive onto your back and experiencing the rewards of serenity and beauty that nature has to offer those who make the effort to explore it.

Hiking near Emperor Falls

A few first time hikers enjoying the rewards of Emperor Falls (Mount Robson).

This year’s theme for World Day for Physical Activity is “Active People! Happy People!” It’s very suiting since evidence shows us that people who are regularly physically active not only experience a better level of physical health, but also lead happier and more productive lives (don’t believe me? Check out this article on why physical activity is the secret to happiness!).  Who wouldn’t want to feel happier?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity per week for adults, and a minimum of 60 minutes daily for children and youth ages 5-17 in order to experience health benefits. You may already be meeting and exceeding these numbers, and if so, fantastic! Keep it up! However, if these numbers sound like a lot, start smaller and work your way up. The main thing is that you start moving and keep at it. So, in the spirit of spring and new beginnings, I would like to challenge each of you to get out and be active, not only on the official World Day for Physical Activity, but on most days of the week. Your mind and body will thank you!

Resources:

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Physical Activity Line – your PAL in healthy living

Physical Activity Line

PAL – the Physical Activity Line (www.physicalactivityline.com)

The acronym PAL has so many positive connotations. What instantly comes to mind is “a really great friend.” A good buddy. A kindred spirit. Who knew that PAL actually stands for Physical Activity Line and is an important provincial resource to support increased physical activity? So I sent some questions off to my good buddy who works at the PAL, and here is what she told me:

What is the provincial PAL? What services or resources does it offer?

The Physical Activity Line (PAL) is your FREE resource for practical and trusted physical activity and healthy living information. The PAL provides a range of services to the public including:

  • Providing guidance to help you become more physically active, overcome your barriers and stay motivated.
  • Educating you with the most up-to-date, trusted physical activity and health information.
  • Connecting you with health professionals and community health and fitness programs.

Who will PAL support? Worksites, schools, homes?

In addition to the public, the PAL supports an integrated approach to improving health through collaboration with health professionals, programs and organizations, such as workplaces. The PAL can provide evidence-based physical activity resources to assist your practice or program, as well as, assist you to find suitable programs for your clients/patients.

What should I expect when I call PAL? What is the process?

When you contact the PAL, you will speak with a qualified exercise professional and together, we will determine which service(s) is appropriate for you. The qualified exercise professional may ask you some questions related to your health in order to provide you with individual and safe physical activity advice and/or with information on suitable health and fitness programs in your community. It’s up to you to decide what personal information you give us, and you will not need to provide your name or contact information unless you would like us to send you information by email or mail.

How does PAL support workplace wellness?  What is the Wellness Fits initiative?

The PAL can provide resources to assist with building and maintain workplace wellness. The Wellness Fits initiative is a FREE workplace wellness program from Healthy Families BC and the Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon. The program provides information for workplaces on important health practices (e.g., physical activity, healthy eating, smoking cessation, and mental health), tools to help employees take action, and supports employers in creating healthy workplaces. For additional information on the Wellness Fits initiative, refer to www.wellnessfits.ca or contact 1-855-939-WELL (9355).

How can I promote PAL to my co-workers, families and friends?

You can promote the PAL to co-workers, families and friends by word-of-mouth, providing them with the PAL website (www.physicalactivityline.com), telephone number (1-877-725-1149), and requesting PAL information that you can share with them.

What does the website offer? Why would I visit?

The website provides information on the PAL such as what it is, what services it offers and how to contact it. The website is helpful for the public, health professionals and organizations as it contains resources, called Fact Sheets, on various physical activity related topics and information on other FREE telehealth services available to BC residents.

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Overcoming challenges for physical activity

Crystal, outside physical activity.

Crystal, showing dedication and braving the Dawson Creek winter elements to fit some physical activity into her work day.

Fourteen years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that drastically turned my world upside down. Being active was something that was always important to me and now, at the age of only 20 years old, I was faced with learning how to live with a disease that affected my ability to perform even the simplest of everyday activities.

Working at Northern Health has been a good fit for me, but especially in managing my health. I have enough flexibility in the job that on good days I could be out in the field working and on bad days I could stay in the office. As time went on, I noticed that I started to spend more time in the office. As a result, I walked less and sat much more. Something needed to change.

In 2009 I made a life change. I stepped outside of my personal comfort zone and signed up for a 12 week boot camp at the local gym. I still remember that first day. I was so self-conscious about being weak and poorly conditioned. But, instead of giving up, I kept with it. I also hired a personal trainer. It was a learning experience for both of us as we figured out how I could modify the movements.

At Northern Health we are beginning to walk the walk and be the face of health within our communities and, as we have learned the last few weeks, workplaces are great locations to promote healthy living and integrate physical activity into daily life. I decided that I wanted to use what I had learned over the years and share it with my co-workers, so I created a contest.

In the winter of 2013, the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John health units challenged the Smithers and Terrace health units in the first ever internal Workplace Wellness “Healthier You Challenge.” This challenge was a fun, in-house 12-week pilot project designed around the Northern Health position papers. The focus of the challenge was to educate and engage staff on incorporating healthy lifestyle behaviours into their everyday routines.

Between the four health units, over 100 staff committed to the challenge. Each week I sent out a new worksheet that explained the week’s challenge. The “weekly” challenges were designed to get you moving and start thinking about healthy food choices.

The physical activity component was based on the key message that every move counts. This theme was carried over from week to week. Anytime an employee participated in any form of physical activity for 10 minutes or more, they logged that into their worksheet and gained points for their team. Participants also gained points for every kilometre travelled and/or steps that they took for the day. I got lots of motivation from B.C.’s Physical Activity Line.

The food challenges were based on Canada’s Food Guide and provincial initiatives. These changed week to week. Examples included eating vegetables and fruit, and reducing the amount of trans fat and high sodium foods that were consumed.

One of the big successes of the challenge was the creation of the “Break Challenge.” During the challenge, employees were encouraged to participate in some sort of physical activity for 15 minutes while at work. Each day a group of staff from the Dawson Creek Health Unit could be found outside walking around on their coffee breaks. It was common on the really cold days to find staff lunging, frog jumping, or walking in the hallways. At the end of Week 1, employees had participated in 342 physical activity breaks, 306 hours of physical activity, and had walked 2097 kms.

At the end of the challenge I surveyed participants, asking them what they liked best about the challenge and what changes they had made in their workplace as a result of the challenge. Some of the comments were:

  • Breaking down the challenge week by week made it feel more manageable and seem less daunting. I also liked the fact there was a different challenge each week.
  • For me the best part of the challenge was the joining of the individuals in our health unit to challenge each other in a supportive environment.
  • Able to critically look at the everyday and identify small opportunities for positive change vs. drastic and likely short lived changes.

This is the challenge that I developed for my fellow co-workers. It was fun and really got people engaged. For more information on some of the weekly challenges, or to find out which health unit won bragging rights, make sure to keep an eye for my future updates on the Northern Health blog. Alternatively, if you are looking for a workplace wellness program that your workplace can join, we encourage you to look at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wellness Fits program.

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Bringing physical activity into the work day

Michael's running injury

Michael with his running injury, but still sporting a big smile.

This spring and summer, a small group of us started to run the Terrace Mountain trail during the lunch break. This is not for the faint-hearted and according to my wife, is not something a sensible person (of my age) would do!

Starting from the car park at the rear of the Skeena Health Unit, the first kilometer consists of steep, muddy inclines. After that, we follow part of the route used in the annual ‘King of the Mountain’ race. The feeling of achievement, accomplishment and overall sense of well-being is difficult to describe. Neither a treadmill nor pavement can compete with the natural beauty of a BC mountain trail.

During the 50 minutes from leaving my desk, my gadgets show we cover almost 6 km and burn through 770 calories. While this helps support my fitness goals, this is only part of the story.

Previously, my lunch would be eaten at my desk. Often, by the time the work day ended, I would feel physically and mentally exhausted. When I take to the trails, things could not be more different. I feel invigorated and alive. This ‘boost’ keeps my energy levels high through the rest of the day and into the evening.

Now for the bad news! At various times over recent months, each member of the group sustained injuries, aches and strains, directly or indirectly related to our lunchtime activities. I had a close call, when I tripped on a tree root and hit the ground face-first. I was lucky to escape with only a black eye and a few cuts and bruises. While I am still enjoying the challenge, I have started to look for alternatives.

I was excited to learn that I could get the same psychological boost with far lower risk for injury. Researchers from the University of Essex, England, suggest that five minutes of outdoor physical activity improves mood and self-esteem. Walking, running, or anything that gets you moving, will produce the desired results.

Even better, a five minute session produced a greater boost to self-esteem and mood than a workout lasting 10–60 minutes. As we head into the Fall and running outdoors becomes challenging, I plan to make this a part of my daily routine. Even on the busiest day, I can find five minutes to exercise outside.

What exercise will you do outdoors for five minutes to boost mood, self-esteem and resilience?

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Spring into activity – injury-free!

Young boy wearing a life-jacket and fishing off of dock.

Make sure that your favourite spring and summer activities are enjoyed safely so that you can have fun all season long!

Spring is in the air! Lakes are thawing, bulbs are blooming, and leaves are sprouting! After a long but mild winter, it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy your favourite spring activity!

While physical activity is an important part of our health, as well as our growth and development, we recognize that there are risks involved – as there are in all parts of life. While not all risks can be eliminated, most can be managed.

Everybody has thoughts and ideas about risk and protective factors and what they believe is the right balance to keep their activity both fun and safe. For example, when you leave the house to go for a walk and cross the road, you are taking a risk. But, if you look both ways, make eye contact with drivers, and wear bright clothing, you minimize that risk while still enjoying your walk!

What are your thoughts around risk taking? Do you manage risks in your daily activities in a way that keeps those activities fun while including the appropriate safety measures? What precautions do you take to ensure you can get back to the same activity with the same ability again and again? Remember to aim for a healthy balance, avoid the bubble wrap and when you take risks, take smart ones!

Did you know that we sustain more injuries during the spring and summer months? Why might that be?

  • There are more vulnerable road users out and about such as bicyclists and motorcyclists, dog walkers, runners, and skateboarders.
  • Off-road vehicle use increases with warmer weather. In northern B.C., we actually have the highest rates of ATV injuries in the province.
  • There is more access to open water for swimming, fishing, and boating – all of which come with a drowning risk.
  • There is an increase in outdoor sports where we see more musculoskeletal injuries and concussion.
Young boy wearing helmet on BMX bike.

Shellie’s tips for safe spring and summer activities are simple but effective: look first, wear the gear, get trained, buckle up, and drive sober. Whether you’re on a boat, a bike, a car, a dock, a street, a hill, or enjoying any other Northern activity, these tips will help you stay active and injury-free!

Here are some simple but effective tips to stay fit and injury-free so you can enjoy the activities you love all spring and summer long – and for many seasons to come!

  • Look first: Stop, think and check out the situation before you act. Watch for vulnerable road users. Stop, think, and assess before crossing the street, before skiing down a hill, before climbing a ladder. Understand the risks of an activity and make a plan to manage them.
  • Wear the gear: When there is protective gear for an activity, wear it. It will save a life. Your seatbelt, your helmet, your life-jacket – wear the gear!
  • Get trained: Learn how to assess the risks of an activity, decide which ones are worth taking, and develop skills to manage those risks. ATV safety training, swimming lessons and driver education are all examples of getting trained.
  • Buckle up: Have the rule that everyone buckles up properly every time, no matter how short the trip. Remember to buckle up life-jackets and helmets, too!
  • Drive sober: Be fully in control of your mind and body when behind the wheel of any kind of vehicle, whether car, ATV, boat or bicycle. Operate these vehicles without the impairment of alcohol, drugs, fatigue or distractions of any kind.
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Make plans for activity this spring!

Four children playing on a tire swing.

Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! With spring upon us, it is a great time to get out and play as a family or community! Kids and adults alike won’t even realize they’re being active when they’re socializing at the same time!

From Dease Lake to Prince George, the sidewalks and streets are basically clear of the white stuff at this point! The weather is warmer, my children have their bikes out and the tuques and mitts have been put away. For me, these are all the signs I need to say that spring is officially here!

We were pretty lucky to have had a mild winter in most parts of northern B.C. this year, but the colder temperatures, shorter days, and snowy and icy conditions will still have kept many people indoors for the season. This hibernation often results in a decrease in physical activity over the winter months which comes with a cost to our health.

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. Now that we have sprung into spring, it’s a good time to turn that sedentary behavior around and take a positive approach to getting and staying healthy!

Here are a few tips for getting started with any physical activity plans this spring:

Wear proper footwear.

Having the right footwear for activity will ensure comfort and the ability to continue with the activity of choice. Walking is one of the single most beneficial things for our health as almost anyone can do it and it’s free! Walking shoes or running shoes will provide good support and the proper fit will prevent blisters and calluses. There are a wide variety of shoes available and appropriate for all activity levels that will fit into most people’s budgets. Proper footwear is definitely a good investment and will keep you moving!

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! Encourage kids to get outdoors and play with their friends. Spring is the perfect time for kids to be outside and exploring. They’ll be so busy having fun that they won’t even realize they are getting exercise.

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

Adults need 150 minutes of activity per week. That’s per week, not per day! If we were to break that down, it’s just over 20 minutes per day, which should be achievable for most people.

If you’re just starting out, start slow and you can even break that down to bouts of 10 minutes at a time, gradually working your way up to meeting the recommendations. The biggest goal for all of us is to move more and sit less every day, whatever that looks like for each individual! We should all strive for more movement! A pedometer or step counter can be an encouraging way to help keep track of progress.

These goals apply to children as well. To achieve health benefits, kids need 60 minutes of activity per day. As parents and caregivers, we can’t assume that kids get all of their physical activity during the day and then be OK with them coming home after school and sitting around on electronics and watching screens. Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! Make every effort to be positive, active living role models for our kids and our communities. It truly benefits everyone.

In addition to those 3 tips, the importance of progression and patience needs to be highlighted. Adults should start slow if they’re just beginning a new activity or routine and take time to work up to the recommended guidelines, especially if they haven’t been active for some time. The progression will take longer for some people, but as activity levels progress, so will the health benefits! Incorporating light stretching before and after any type of activity is also worthwhile as it warms up our muscles and joints and can prevent injury, which will keep us on the road to increased activity and improved health.

Stick with these tips and your goals and have patience. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your successes! Let’s get outside and enjoy these first signs of spring!

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Adulting 101: How to eat properly

A selection of snacks and handouts from the dietitian.
Speaking to a dietitian made me re-think the way I snack. Combinations of protein and carbohydrates help me stay full and focused between meals. These are some of my favorite snacks for at work or on the go.

Most adults will agree: sometimes “adulting” is hard. Day-to-day tasks like walking, running, and eating can be hard to do! During the summer, I was feeling tired all the time which wasn’t the norm for me. Worried something was going on, I went to see my doctor. She recommended I see a registered dietitian (RD). Surprised and a little bit embarrassed, I wondered, was it that simple? Had I failed the most basic of tasks — feeding myself properly?

Learning how to eat — again

So off I went to see a dietitian for the first time. I had no idea what to expect but I figured that it couldn’t hurt. I knew that speaking to a dietitian is free (thanks Canadian health care!) and that they are highly educated on all things nutrition.

My appointment day arrived and I found myself fidgeting in the waiting room. My dietitian came out to greet me and as soon as I walked into her office, all my nerves disappeared. She was warm and non-judgmental and made me feel like she was really listening to my concerns. This helped ease my discomfort. It felt strange to discuss my eating habits and patterns to a total stranger. I’d never realized how personal my eating choices felt.

My experience seeing a registered dietitian

To start, we went through an extensive list of questions, some slightly mortifying. She asked about bodily functions, including the process of food exiting one’s body. I cringed but answered as best I could. She made talking about poop seem like the most normal thing in the world. I laughed later just thinking about it.  

She took a moment to analyze my answers jotting down a few notes here and there. Next she asked what a typical day of eating looked like for me. For the rest of my visit, we discussed some of my eating challenges and some ways to overcome them.

Haylee holding her bike above her head.
Thanks to my dietitian’s advice, I’ve learned that fueling my body properly helps me perform my best – both at work and during activities I love – like cycling!

What I learned

The biggest take away for me was that I wasn’t eating frequently enough. I was letting my body go into starvation mode between meals. I also learned I wasn’t eating the right things to feel full. We talked about protein and carbohydrate balanced snacks and meals. These suggestions seemed obvious but clearly I wasn’t identifying them myself. Having an outsider’s perspective helped me understand my eating patterns better. Plus, my dietitian gave me advice that was tailored to my needs. For these reasons, I found the visit very helpful!

Here are my five reasons why you should consider seeing a registered dietitian:

  1. Seeing a registered dietitian gives you free, evidenced-based advice on nutrition. In the era of information overload, I feel like I’m constantly bombarded on social media with harmful diet culture messages. It’s hard to know who to trust! A dietitian can help set the record straight with evidence-based nutrition advice.
  2. Registered dietitians are highly educated and regulated. The RD designation is protected and regulated in Canada. In BC, they’re regulated under the BC College of Dietitians. For this reason, you shouldn’t trust just anybody on nutrition advice. RD requirements include the following: completing a four year undergraduate degree, doing an approved internship, and successfully writing a registration exam. Plus each year, RDs must complete continuing education that is recorded and submitted to the College of dietitians. Talk about thorough!
  3. Registered dietitians personalize solutions for you. Doctors are amazing champions when it comes to your health but the reality is they’re limited in how much time they can spend with you one-on-one. An RD can spend much more time with you than your family doctor can in a ten minute visit. This means they can look into your case more thoroughly and offer solutions that are personalized to you and your health needs. I’m thankful my doctor recognized this and referred me.
  4. Registered dietitians look at nutrition holistically. One thing that surprised me during my RD visit was the scope of questions. We talked about things I didn’t expect to talk about ­– like my physical activity and bodily functions. I didn’t realize it, but all these things are connected. She never said “thou shall eat this and not eat that,” but instead helped me identify foods I enjoyed and how to enjoy more of them in a way that meets my needs.
  5. Registered dietitians can give you great resources. Another helpful thing I took away from my visit was some great handouts on snacking and fueling before and after exercise. RDs are trained to look at the latest research with a critical eye. In other words, they can help you find good sources of information for your nutrition needs.

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to an RD?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.
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Being a teen can be tough! Getting active can help

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Northern Health’s Healthier You – Fall 2018 edition on Youth Mental Wellness. Read the full issue here.)

A dog with a backpack behind people snowshoeing.

When I was a teenager, my family used to tease me, lovingly, about riding a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I was flying high, giddy and unstoppable, the next minute I would be physically drooping, bored, and waiting for something or someone to pick me back up again. Everything that happened to and around me was a big deal, and I was deeply affected, positively or negatively.

Life as a teenager was not easy, and that was before smartphones and social media were a thing. Today’s teens deal with all of the same life changes and stressors people my age dealt with, and then some. There seems to be significantly more pressure to perform, in school, sports, socially… not only in person, but also virtually. While the pressure used to ease when we got home at the end of the day, there is no reprieve today; a person’s online presence never rests.

It’s no wonder anxiety, depression, and other related mental health concerns are so frequently mentioned while referring to today’s youth population.

Additionally, because today’s social life is quite often literally located at arms’ length (on our handheld devices), motivation to get out and engage face-to-face is low, which leads to increasingly sedentary (inactive) lifestyles.

The positive link between physical activity and improved mental health is well documented, but did you know that high rates of sedentary time have been linked to a greater risk of developing depression in adolescence? If we weren’t already concerned about rising rates of sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity, we now should be.

Here are a few ways making physical activity a priority can help improve youth mental wellness:

  1. Physical activity is a healthy coping mechanism. It can help clear the mind and decrease anxiety levels.
  2. Physical activity provides a “time out” from online pressures. Chances are, whether we’re doing something active solo or with others, we’re not bothering to check our phones for a while. Having a healthy distraction can help put whatever is happening online into perspective.
  3. Getting involved in an activity or sport with others helps build social connections, which are vital to our emotional well-being.
  4. Being physically active helps boost self-esteem – a key indicator of mental health! It also helps us build resilience to fight daily stressors.
  5. One word: endorphins! When we raise our heart rates, our bodies produce endorphins, or “feel-good” chemicals, giving us an immediate mental boost.

The physical and mental health benefits of being active can be realized in a variety of ways, which is why it’s important that youth are exposed to as many different forms of physical activity as possible to assist in finding something exciting and enjoyable. You don’t have to be a superstar athlete, or a “gym rat,” and there is no single “must do” physical activity to help you reach your full potential. Full potential is individual, and reached when you find that thing (or things) that makes you tick. Once you discover it, whether it’s running, basketball, hiking, foraging, snowshoeing, etc., you’ll notice how good you feel whenever you do it, you’ll want to keep on doing it, and you’ll continue to reap the benefits from it, in every aspect of your life.  

For more information on the links between physical activity and mental health:

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Dancing my way to wellness: why boogie-ing is better for you than you think

Dance partners posing together.
My Boogie with the Stars dance partner Gurinder and I.

This fall I reignited an old passion of mine: dance. Growing up I spent many hours at my local dance studio practicing jazz and my favourite, ballet. Besides teaching me important aspects of physical activity like coordination and flexibility, dance taught me important things I still appreciate now as an adult.

What dance has taught me:

  • Good posture: I learned to put my shoulders back, not slouch, and stand tall!
  • Musicality: thanks to my ballet training I still enjoy listening to classical music; leading up to Christmas I had the Nutcracker on repeat!
  • Discipline: I learned it takes hard work to learn a routine or new move! I’ve applied this skill to many things since my younger dance days, including post-secondary school and my career.

From ballet to ballroom

Now I’ve traded my ballet slippers for ballroom heels! This New Year’s Eve I’ll be dancing at the Prince George Civic Centre as a member of Boogie with the Stars (BWTS). BWTS is a fun-filled biannual fundraising gala that sees a variety of Prince George community members come together and face off on the dance floor! There are several teams, each one raising money for a different charity. My partner Gurinder and I are Team Wheelin’Warriors of the North and all of our funds will go to the BC Cancer Foundation. We’ll be dancing a salsa and swing compilation! It’s been fun to take dance lessons again and try something new. Plus I forgot what good exercise dance can be! Have you ever been curious about dance? Here are a couple reasons why you should try it, including a couple benefits I’ve discovered:

Group dance session.
A group dance session at Dance North in Prince George. 

Now that the NYE countdown is on, my partner and I are continuing to practice hard. Whether you have experience or not I’d encourage anyone to give dance a try! Are you part of a dance group in your community? What kind of dance do you enjoy the most?

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