Healthy Living in the North

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Adulting 101: Running safely in winter

Haylee in her winter running gear.

What comes next after learning to “adult” and walk safely? Why, running of course! Until recently I would’ve never considered going for a run at night in the winter. Why would I leave my warm house to gallivant in the snow and ice? One of my goals is to do a triathlon so I decided I needed to break it down and work on one piece of it: you guessed it – running!

So there I found myself: running outside in the winter. I realized that contrary to my old beliefs, life and being physically active doesn’t stop because it’s winter! I’ll admit the cold and darkness didn’t encourage me to jump out the door, but I do know I felt really good once I was out there. In fact, there was a whole group of us that felt pretty darn good in the snow! I decided to join one of my local running groups, the PG Road Runners, for a Wednesday night group run and even made some friends while tromping through the slush. Other perks: I learned snow is weirdly satisfying to crunch under my feet and I got a much needed dose of vitamin N (nature!) from being outside! Plus, it was fun to try something new and I felt so good after!

Are you interested in taking the icy plunge and running outside this winter? Here are five things I recommend for winter running.

Five tips for winter running:

A selection of gear for winter running.
  1. Stay safe and wear reflective gear! Making sure you’re seen is really important when out running in the dark. Nearly half of all crashes with pedestrians happen in the fall and winter due to the dark and low visibility! Leave the all-black clothing at home and stay safe by wearing bright, reflective gear!
  2. Get a grip. My biggest worry about running in the winter was slipping and falling. I’d heard that wearing ice grippers over your running shoes could help, and when I showed up to my running group, everyone was wearing them! I tried running in them and felt much more sure-footed. That said, you still need to be very careful and watch your step! I thought they might be uncomfortable but they were barely noticeable for me. If you do get a pair, I’d recommend them for walking too!
  3. Light your way. I didn’t have a headlamp for my first winter night run and I wish I did! I thought the street lamps would do the trick but I didn’t account for the dark spots between the street lamps. Oops. I picked one up for my next night run and it made a huge difference being able to see where I was stepping. If you do decide to invest, you could use it for other winter activities like snowshoeing!
  4. Don’t get cold feet. Thanks to the freeze and thaw weather in Prince George lately, I ran through a lot of slush puddles. My feet were wet but they stayed warm thanks to my wool socks. Unlike cotton, wool helps trap heat and keep it close to your body so you stay warm. I’d highly recommend a pair.   
  5. Dress lighter than the weather feels – I learned this the hard way. It gets hot when running! I didn’t check the weather before my first run, dressed too warm and overheated halfway through. Make sure you check the weather before you go and then choose your layers accordingly.   

As an amateur runner I’m probably just skimming the surface when it comes to advice. Are you part of a running group? Do you have any winter running tips? Leave your comments below! Stay safe and happy running!

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Adulting 101: Walking safely in winter

Haylee waiting to cross a street with a reflective item on her bag.

Sometimes it’s good to get a refresher on how to “adult” and do the basics – such as walking safely! For those of you not familiar with the term adulting, the Oxford dictionary says it’s “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.”

For most of us, walking is a necessary task – but what does that mean in the winter time? Along with snowflakes and shoveling, it means darker days and less visibility when out walking or driving. Did you know that nearly half (43%) of all crashes with pedestrians happen in the fall and winter as conditions get worse?

As someone who walks to work, this fact really struck a chord with me. Was I doing everything I could to make sure I was walking safely to and from work? I was able to get some road safety advice from ICBC that I want to share with you. Here are their five tips for walking safer in winter.

Five tips for walking safely in winter:

  1. Be careful at intersections – watch for drivers turning left or right through the crosswalk. I always check before I cross. Drivers may be focused on oncoming traffic and not see you. I’ve had close calls as both a pedestrian and a driver so be safe and check before you cross!
  2. Don’t jaywalk – I know it’s tempting but always use crosswalks and follow the pedestrian signs and traffic signals. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  3. Make eye contact with drivers, as it’s hard to see pedestrians when visibility is poor in fall and winter. I go by this rule when crossing the street: if I can’t see the driver’s eyeballs, I don’t cross! Never assume that a driver has seen you.
  4. Remove your headphones and take a break from your phone while crossing the road. One thing I love about walking to work is that it gives me time to listen to a podcast or some good tunes. That said, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you, especially when crossing the street! Unplug and pay attention when you cross!
  5. Be as reflective as possible to make it easier for drivers to see you in wet weather, at dusk, and at night. On dark walks home, I wear blinking lights (I attach bike lights to my satchel!) and wear reflective accessories so drivers can see me.

What do you do to make sure you’re “adulting” well and walking safely in dark conditions? Leave your tips in the comments below! Stay safe and happy walking!

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Bike season is over…or is it? How one cycling team keeps wheeling through winter

For avid cyclists, this time of year is bittersweet. With the changing seasons and winter at our doorstep, it’s time to put the bikes away. However, in Dawson Creek, this isn’t the case! The local cycling club, the Greasy Chains, hosts indoor spin classes so even the most dedicated cyclist can keep spinning all winter long.

I spoke to team captain Jamie Maxwell about the club and the classes.

group cycling indoors.

The Dawson Creek Greasy Chains Cycling Club rides Tuesday and Thursday nights 7 to 8pm in the Coyote Rock Cafe at the Dawson Creek Secondary School – Central Campus from November 1 to April.

Tell me about the Greasy Chains Cycling Club!

Here in the Northeast, there are three active cycling groups: the Fort St. John Blizzards, the Grande Prairie Wheelers, and the Dawson Creek Greasy Chains. All three of us are vibrant, active groups. The Greasy Chains are predominantly a road cycling group. From about April to August, we ride outside and in the winter, we spin inside.

What do you enjoy most about spin and cycling?

Recently I found out I wore out one of my knees and was told I needed to run less. I’d read that biking and swimming was therapeutic. The nice thing too about spin and cycling is that it can be a group activity – it’s social. For cycling, it’s a way to experience being outside – similar to running but you get to cover more territory. It’s really fun too.

How does biking help you incorporate wellness into your life?

It seems like as you age, you’re genetically lucky to continue as a runner. With cycling, there doesn’t seem to be lasting negative impacts. For me, it’s an ideal aerobic endurance training tool without the joint impact.

How is the team staying active this winter?

Right now we are offering indoor cycling all winter for $70. We ride every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7 to 8 PM in the Coyote Rock Cafe at the Dawson Creek Secondary School – Central Campus from November 1 to April.

Most of us are riding road bikes, and an indoor bicycle trainer is required (we have a couple trainers available for those who haven’t taken the plunge and bought their own yet!). We’ve had users riding mountain bikes with a smooth urban tire. If you’re going to use a mountain bike there are a few things to consider so the bike stays in the trainer safely.

We use a ceiling mounted projector and sound system and we ride to cycling videos. This is a time where I, and others, can offer advice and instruction, and riders are free to work as hard as they wish. All riders must have a Cycling BC membership (Provincial RIDE $60: affiliate yourself with DC Greasy Chains) for insurance purposes). Riders looking to try it out first can drop-in for November and December and then join Cycling BC for 2019. In the spring the group has mountain bike trail enthusiasts as well!

Where can someone find more information?

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Join the Winter Walk Day Movement – It’s not just for kids!

I start to get antsy this time of year. Warm sunny days tease me, making me “think spring,” but they tend to be quickly followed up by another blast from the deep freeze many of us northerners love to hate. I know it’s tempting to hibernate when the weather is on the chilly side, but most of us – if we’re honest – will admit that we feel so much better physically AND mentally when we make the effort to get out for some activity.

boy playing in snow

Why not plan your own Winter Walk Day event (February 7, 2018 or any date in February that works for schools) to get outside and reach those recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity?

Not that we need an excuse, but we have an excellent opportunity to push ourselves out the door: Winter Walk Day is celebrated by schools across Canada on the first Wednesday of February each year (February 7, 2018). Schools are encouraged to register their Winter Walk Day event in order to receive a Certificate of Participation. If February 7 doesn’t work for you or your school, that’s okay! You have the option to plan and register an event anytime in February.

Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day (more is even better), and the majority of kids are falling short of these recommendations. Walking to school is a great way to fit more activity into everyday life, and leads to so many benefits, including:

  • Improved physical health
  • Improved learning and grades
  • Improved mental health (reducing anxiety, boosting mood, etc.)
  • Decreased traffic congestion, especially around school drop-off zones
  • Improved safety due to less traffic
  • Environmental benefits due to fewer emissions

teen walking to school in snow

Walking to school (or work!) is a great way to fit more activity into everyday life

Even though Winter Walk Day is a school-based initiative, why should students have all the fun?? I’d like to point out that all of the benefits listed above apply to adults in the workplace as well. Arriving at work warm from activity and alert from the fresh air is likely to set you up for a positive and productive day. Who couldn’t use one of those days?

I’m going to strap on my ice grippers and join the winter walk movement on Wednesday, February 7. Who’s with me?

For more information on active transportation, visit:

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Snowshoeing, skating, and safety: the perfect winter day

Last December, my family could not wait for our vacation to start so we could enjoy full days of outdoor activities together! One of my fondest memories was a day we went with a big group of friends to snowshoe on a local lake (this was a year we were fortunate to have temperatures that made the ice more than thick enough for skating parties and games). Wondering how thick the ice should be? Check out the Canadian Red Cross ice safety recommendations!

We filled our backpacks with a picnic and all the gear to go skating on the very frozen lake. The kids were thrilled to swap out snowshoes and backpacks for skates and hockey sticks. They quickly organized themselves into teams and started working up a sweat. The mothers snowshoed laps around them, ever watchful that nobody decided to venture off into the woods.

boy playing hockey on frozen lake

My son taking a shot on the frozen ice!

What struck me was that the kids did not need to be reminded to wear a helmet on the ice, or how to play the game safely. It’s just second nature now to wear the gear and play safe. This made preventing injuries that day effortless. Should there have been a fall on the ice, a couple of us had taken the Concussion Awareness Training Tool that is free online for parents. Just one less thing to be concerned about so we could fully enjoy the day.

Before we snowshoed out, we built a fire on shore to warm our hands and share our potluck-style meal, complete with warm thermoses of tea and hot chocolate. It was a wonderful day in the snow. We all left with cold toes and warm hearts… I can’t wait to do it all over again this winter!

For more information on how to keep your loved ones safe while enjoying all that northern BC winters have to offer, visit:

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Mikaila’s Story – Gear Up for Winter

Mikaila was only 13 years old when a family ski trip to Nelson, BC took a turn for the worse. She recalled the weather conditions at the mountain being very windy and icy that day. She was also not very familiar with her surroundings as it was her first time at this particular location.

snowboarder on a hill

“…the decisions you make about your safety can prevent serious outcomes.”

The last thing Mikaila remembered was waiting in line for the chairlift with her sister, from that moment on her memory was wiped. She was told by her sister that it was going to be their last run of the day, and then the crash happened. Mikaila had lost control. She was headed off the trail weaving quickly through the trees. She believes she most likely hit a patch of ice and was trying to slow down. She turned to carve but crashed right into a tree. Unfortunately, Mikaila was not wearing a helmet.

After the impact from the crash and taking a blow to the head, she was unresponsive and in a coma. Once help had arrived and she was stabilized, Mikaila was flown by an emergency helicopter to BC’s Children Hospital in Vancouver. The doctors found a significant amount of intracranial bleeding and debated whether surgery would be necessary or if the bleeding would resolve itself. Mikaila remained on a respirator for 2 and ½ days. Her total hospital stay was 6 days; 3 days in the intensive care unit and few on the ward with her family at her side. The doctor believed that a helmet would have deflected the impact of the crash and protected her brain.

Mikaila shared that the first thing she remembered was the breathing tube being pulled from her throat accompanied by a couple flashes of her family nearby. Her recovery continued at home with a long stretch of time spent on bed rest. Although she is an active individual, involved in many sports, Mikaila was unable to get back into all of her activities for some time following the crash. When she was allowed to play soccer again she was advised not to head the ball and had to be very cautious. Mikaila was very fortunate but the impact on herself and family has had lasting effects.

Mikaila received a helmet that following Christmas as a gift and encourages everyone to wear one as well. She stated, “To this day I have never been able to remember the crash or even the recovery in the hospital, so it almost feels like it didn’t happen to me. I still go snowboarding as often as I can and I’m committed to wearing my helmet on every run. If I forget, my mom is sure there to remind me of the dangers and how lucky I am to be here today!”

What is the take-home message to Mikaila’s story? Injuries happen in predictable patterns and the decisions you make about your safety can prevent serious outcomes. Wearing a helmet can make a difference in reducing the risk of a head injury while keeping you active and having fun on the hill with your family and friends, doing what you love. So next time you hit the slopes, take a minute to remember Mikaila’s story and your safety. Gear up for winter!


You can win a new winter sport helmet by entering your favourite place to ‘gear up’ on northern BC – check out our Facebook page (by 2pm, Thursday, Jan. 28) for more details!


 

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Gear up for winter

Winter forest

Where do you most like to gear up for the winter? Tell us on our Facebook Page for yuor chance to win a ski/winter sport helmet!

Have you set any goals for the New Year yet? How about starting the year off with making a commitment to wearing a helmet while engaging in your favourite winter sports and activities?

According to Parachute Canada, everyone should be gearing up; using the right gear for the sport. It’s estimated that approximately 35 per cent of all skiing and snowboarding head injuries could be prevented by simply wearing a helmet! Especially at risk are youth aged 10-19. This age group has the highest number of preventable injuries related to skiing and snowboarding.

Living in northern B.C., we have ample opportunity to ski, snowboard, ice skate, toboggan and snowmobile right in our own backyards. We are so fortunate to know the joy and exhilaration of playing in a winter wonderland. To stay in the game and on the slope, we need to do our part to keep active and prevent serious winter sport injuries!

So, where can you start? Get motivated and involved – commit to wearing the gear. Tell us where you’ll be wearing your gear this winter and you could win!

From January 14th to the 28th, we’re running a Facebook contest where you can post your favourite winter activity spots in northern B.C. (photos welcome!) for a chance to win a ski/winter sport helmet! The deadline is 2 p.m. on January 28th, full contest details available on our Facebook Page.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be sharing all sorts of winter sport safety tips and information. Stay up to date by checking out the Northern Health Facebook & Twitter page.

Watch our awesome Gear Up For Winter video to get yourself ready for some safe winter fun.

Want more convincing facts about helmet safety? Check out Parachute Canada’s video below!

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Stay connected and get involved to conquer winter!

Editor’s note: This article was co-written by Andrew Burton, Holly Christian, Danielle Munnion and Lana Vanderwijk. It was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine.


 

Northern living presents a whole host of challenges that can lead to social isolation. The long, cold and dark winters can make it difficult to get out. Many people leave for work before the sun rises and don’t get home until after it has set. This can put a real damper on your mood, energy level and motivation.

But there are lots of things that you can do to prevent this! The key to conquering winter is staying involved and connected! Research suggests that having an active social life and staying engaged in the community leads to better mental, physical and emotional health. So let’s conquer winter together this year and come out even healthier on the other side! Here are a few ways that you can get involved and stay connected in your community.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to be involved in the community, and there’s no easier time to start since the holiday season typically offers many opportunities for volunteering! There are so many different organizations in need of help that you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that piques your interest! Volunteering gets you up and out of the house, is a great way to meet new people, and is associated with better mental and emotional health. It’s also linked to greater resiliency – that is, the ability to bounce back and cope with unexpected change.

Hello, neighbour!

Volunteering doesn’t strictly mean giving your time to an organization, though. The word “volunteer” simply means to do something and expect no financial gain. There are other ways to benefit from volunteering that don’t require an organization for you to get involved. For instance, you could help a neighbour shovel their driveway, offer to walk their dog, grab their mail while you grab yours, or help them to put up their Christmas lights. There are many things you can do that would surely be appreciated and are great ways to get to know your neighbours or kindle new friendships. And it’s these types of social connections that promote healthy aging and lead to better health for both you and your neighbours!

Try something new!

Three adults carpet bowling

Whether you’re trying something new like carpet bowling at a community centre or sharing a hobby with a neighbour, staying connected this winter will help you to come out even healthier in the spring!

Another great way to meet new people is to try something new! Take up a new activity: try yoga, join a local curling team, or check out the local pool. Many pools offer activities like Aquafit – and what better way to meet someone new than to chat for a bit while soaking sore muscles in a hot tub after a good workout in the pool! Sports, especially team sports, and other organized physical activities are good for your health in more ways than one. They help you stay active and physically fit and during exercise, your body releases endorphins – chemicals produced by the body that can relieve pain and induce a state of euphoria – which make you feel good.

Share your hobbies

In addition to more organized activities like sports, hobbies such as a knitting group, an art or photography class, or a choir also keep you socially engaged. Informal clubs like these provide a great reason to get out of the house on a regular basis during those cold, dark winters. They also provide a place to meet new people with similar interests and make new friends. Many activities offered in our communities are free or have a low cost associated with them, making them easy to attend. The social interaction associated with attending these activities has huge benefits for your health, too, especially in terms of increasing your resiliency, giving you a sense of purpose, improving brain function and memory, and boosting your mood because you’re doing something you enjoy with people you enjoy!

Why connect?

Winter, and the holiday season in particular, is a time of giving – but why do we do it? Because it makes us feel good! We get to spend time with our friends and family and enjoy the satisfaction of making others feel good, too. We enjoy knowing that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life because we’re social creatures. Humans weren’t meant to spend all of their time in solitude. We need those personal, social and spiritual connections and we need to be involved in order to be as happy and healthy as possible.

Start now for stress-free and golden years!

Engaging in activities prior to retirement makes us more likely to continue them after we retire (which is handy because that’s when we have more time to enjoy them, too!). Having activities and social connections in place is key to ensuring that you are happy, healthy and engaged once you no longer have co-workers by your side day-in, day-out to chat with. This fall and winter, make it your goal to try something new: volunteer, try a new activity or join a club! There are so many ways you can benefit from putting yourself out there and we want those “golden years” to be truly that: stress-free and golden!

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Foodie Friday: Refresh your winter eating with vegetables and fruit

Bag of frozen cherry tomatoes

Meeting the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide in northern B.C.’s long winters can be a challenge, but frozen, canned, and dried produce can help!

I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t know that eating vegetables and fruit is good for you. However, it may not seem possible to meet the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide during our cold northern winters when nothing grows and most produce is shipped from far away and is quite costly.

But don’t despair! Just remember that vegetables and fruit come in many forms, including frozen, dried and canned, and these, too, have benefits:

  • Convenience: Since the washing, peeling and chopping is already done, food and meal preparation time is shortened by using canned, dried or frozen produce.
  • Freshness: If you are lucky enough to grow your own food or support a local farmer, you can preserve food at the height of its freshness and quality. I’ve also been known to buy seasonal produce and preserve it. Last year, I transformed blueberries from the grocery store into a home canned blueberry sauce to use on my waffles instead of maple syrup.
  • Nutritious: Especially in the winter when growing and shipping conditions can increase the time it takes for fresh produce to reach you, preserved produce will have less nutrient loss.

Tomato plant

When you are picking your tomatoes this year (or buying seasonal produce), consider freezing a few batches for healthy options in the winter months!

The larger nutrition goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables – and using canned, dried and frozen versions makes that easier! Here are a few ways to include these products in your diet:

  • Make fruit salad or smoothies using frozen or canned fruit.
  • Top cereal with dried fruit like raisins, diced apricots or dates.
  • Mix dried fruit with cereal and/or nuts for an on-the-go snack.
  • Add canned or frozen fruit to plain yogurt to add sweetness and nutrition.
  • Top wholegrain pancakes or waffles with canned fruit like peach slices, frozen fruit or fruit sauce like applesauce or pear sauce.
  • Add frozen, canned or dried fruit or vegetables to wholegrain muffin and quick bread recipes — I like grating all that summer zucchini into 1 cup batches that I freeze and add to my muffins later in the year.
  • Add frozen vegetables to rice, soup or pasta sauce.
  • Mix chopped frozen spinach or kale into yogurt-based dips.
  • Add canned or frozen applesauce or pear sauce or frozen ground cherries into your meatball or meatloaf recipe to add sweetness and fibre and lower the fat slightly.
  • Make homemade milk-based soups using frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes or asparagus.

Tomato soup on a stove

Healthy soups are a breeze with frozen vegetables! Flo’s simple winter soup involves roasting some tomatoes, blending them up, adding a couple extras based on your preference, and then enjoying!

When selecting canned, dried or frozen produce, choose fruit processed in water or juice rather than syrup and choose vegetables processed with little or no salt.

One of my favourite winter meals is tomato-based soups. I grow and pick tomatoes in the summer and store them in the freezer. In the winter, I pull these tomatoes out and roast them in the oven with a little bit of vegetable oil and seasoning. Once cooked, I blend them until they’re smooth and either mix with milk to make a “creamy” tomato soup or add to a pot of chick peas and other vegetables to make a vegetarian soup. After a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, a bowl of hot soup hits the spot!

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Canada Winter Games: An opportunity for health legacy

Northern Health staff with mascot at 2015 Canada Winter Games venue

The Northern Health team has been visiting 2015 Canada Winter Games venues to share healthy living information with residents and visitors. From concussion awareness to knowledge of physical activity guidelines, the health legacy of the Games will have a positive impact for years to come!

The 2015 Canada Winter Games are in full swing in Prince George and it has truly been an exciting time for the region. Talk of the Games legacy often focuses on sport promotion, physical facilities, cultural showcase, and economic impact. For Northern Health, however, we’ve spent time leading up to the Games looking at our health legacy. What could we offer our populations before, during, and after the Games? How will Northern Health leverage the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance the health and wellness of northern B.C.?

  • IMAGINE: Legacy Grants: In the spirit of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the IMAGINE grants placed special attention on projects that promote increased physical activity. Grants were awarded to 89 amazing community-based projects in 34 northern communities, totalling $279,870 for health promotion!
  • Smoke-Free Games Proclamation: Northern Health partnered with the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the City of Prince George and Promotion of Wellness in Northern BC to create and support a policy for safe, smoke-free environments for all athletes and spectators taking in the Games. Our goal is to continue these efforts with Prince George and other municipalities to enhance smoke-free bylaws for our northern populations.
  • Northern Safe Sport Tour: With provincial partners, we delivered 15 sport injury prevention and concussion management workshops to coaches, teachers, and parents throughout northern B.C. from June to December 2014. We also rolled out Concussions Matter, a campaign to further create awareness around concussions for medical professionals and community members.
  • Community Health Stars: The first three community health stars helped to launch this new program and were awarded torchbearer spots in the Canada Winter Games torch relay. This program will continue to shine a light on individuals who make tremendous differences in the health of their communities.
  • Growing for Gold: An early start with breastfeeding can contribute to our children “growing for gold!” This legacy program provides decals for businesses and facilities that commit to welcoming and supporting breastfeeding mothers and families. Look for these decals in your community!
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