Healthy Living in the North

Sit less and move more for a healthier workplace

In honour of Healthy Workplace Month, I want to encourage you to take a good look at your workplace. So, what does a healthy workplace look or feel like? It could include things like:

  • The physical environment being set up to support movement, interaction, and activity.
    • Meeting spaces that are conducive to standing and stretching.
    • Bicycle storage and changing/showering facilities.
    • Sit/stand workstations in offices.
  • The social environment and workplace culture making employees feel valued and supported to pursue wellness inside and outside of work.
    • Flexibility in schedules.
    • Lunch or coffee time walking groups.
    • Workplace wellness challenges and incentives.
    • Access to programs and activities onsite, nearby, and/or at discounted rates.

Why is it important to foster and support employees to be healthy? Healthier employees tend to display:

  • Improved productivity.
  • Increased job satisfaction.
  • Decreased absenteeism (sick time, injuries, recovery time, etc.).

We know that, in theory, moving more and sitting less is better for you; however, today’s culture of convenience and constantly advancing technology has, in many cases, removed the need for physical movement at work and during leisure time. We literally only need to lift a finger (okay, maybe a few fingers) to connect with a colleague via email; that the colleague is sitting mere steps away rarely stops us from taking the “instant” route. We petition to have office printers moved closer to our desks in the name of increased efficiency and time savings when, in reality, we should be moving them further away to allow for more frequent breaks from sitting and staring at screens.

According to the latest Canadian Health Measures Survey, approximately one in five Canadian adults are meeting the current physical activity guidelines. Considering over sixty percent of British Columbians are members of the workforce, and most workers are spending a great deal of their waking hours either at or getting to and from their jobs, doesn’t it just make sense to target the workplace when looking to increase physical activity and overall wellness?

Even those who are managing to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity outside of their working hours are not immune to the health risks associated with excess sitting while at work.

Workplace wellness sometimes means stepping out of the office!

What can you do to help make your workplace healthier? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • The next time you organize or attend a meeting, why not either suggest a walking meeting?
  • If a walking meeting isn’t possible, start the meeting off by giving (or seeking) permission for all attendees to feel free to stand, stretch, and/or move around the room as they feel the need. Many people don’t feel comfortable to do this for fear of appearing disrespectful or distracted, when in reality it will likely lead to improved attention and focus.
  • Request or initiate wellness programs (check out ParticipACTION’s) and/or activities with your colleagues (i.e. walks during your breaks, organize or sign up for corporate recreation/sport teams or events, activity challenges, etc.). For extra fun and competition, open up your challenge to other workplaces.

Being active is usually far more fun with others, so don’t disregard the value of camaraderie and social support networks as you strive to make your workplace healthier. Having positive influences and relationships make going to work a far more enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I guarantee the benefits will extend far beyond your workday.

Send us photos of your workplace wellness activities; we’d love to see what makes your workplace a healthy one!

For inspiration to get going, check out this Healthy Activity Ideas List from the Healthy Workplace Month website.

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Coffee Break: Taking 5 for Alzheimer’s disease

Finally, a worthwhile reason to drink coffee!

Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a pretty scary topic for most of us, yet it’s also a very real part of life for so many of us. It’s estimated that 70,000 British Columbians are affected by dementia, and this number is growing (Alzheimer Society BC). Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s and other dementias are also quite commonly misunderstood. For instance, what is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia? If I misplace my keys on a regular basis, does that mean I have Alzheimer’s? There are too many myths and realities about the disease to list in one small story.

My grandpa, forever a farmer, never lost his love for animals.

For me personally, it’s a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, having spent several years working with people living with dementia, as well as having lived the experience as my Grandpa lived and eventually passed away with the disease. I knew him as my boisterous & jolly “Papa Bear,” and even as he deteriorated, we still saw glimpses of his old self shining through. Put a mouth organ in his hands, he would soon be treating you to a foot-tapping tune; place his favourite foods in front of him (of which there were many!), and he was in his glory!

I learned a few very important things from my time spent with people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias:

  • No matter how buried or hidden, your loved one is still there.
  • Live in the moment! If it’s a good moment, grab it and enjoy it for all it’s worth! If it’s a bad moment, do your best to take care of your loved one and yourself and wait for better moments to come (they will!).
  • Try not to focus on what the person can’t do, but rather capitalize on what they are still able to do and enjoy in order to preserve and promote quality of life.
  • Living a healthy lifestyle, like keeping your brain and body active, sleeping and eating well, and maintaining social connections can help prevent, delay the onset, or slow the progression of the disease. (Watch this great video: What you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s.)

You might be wondering, “What does this all have to do with drinking coffee?” I’m glad you asked! What if I told you that you could help raise awareness and funds to support Alzheimer’s related services and programs over your next cup of coffee? Coffee Break® is a national annual fundraiser where friends, families and co-workers gather in communities to raise money for their local Alzheimer Society. Hosts and attendees make their coffee count by exchanging donations for a cup of coffee, tea, or other treat. It’s very easy to join or host a coffee break, and you can do it anywhere and anytime during the months of September and October! If you can’t host a coffee break this year, you can still help out by texting the word “COFFEE” to 45678 to donate $5 to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. How simple is that? Doesn’t it feel good to do something for a great cause? My “Papa Bear” and I thank you!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Bike rodeo preps local kids for back to school

Kids working on bikesI’m starting to hear some “back to school” chatter. Some of it is filled with dread and sadness (“…How is the summer almost over already?”), while some is of another variety (“…How many more days to go?”).

Hopefully, you’ve managed to get out and enjoy the great outdoors this summer in spite of the many wildfires burning around the province. I’m doing my best to take advantage of any day (or portion of the day) without smoke in the air to get outside and be active, and get as much out of our short summer as I can. I’ve cycled more this year than any other year, not only recreationally but also as a form of transportation to work.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Bike to Work & School week, but today I want to encourage you to bike to work & school more often (as weather allows). As you prepare for the return to school, why not start the year off right by riding your bike (or walking) to school as much as possible before the inevitable snow flies? You’ll arrive at school feeling more alert and happier from the blast of fresh air, not to mention it’s a great way to fit a little more physical activity into your day.

Parents, does the idea of sending your kids off to school on their bikes make your heart skip a beat? If you are currently in Prince George, you have an excellent opportunity available to you TOMORROW, August 18 at the PG Public Library! The Prince George Brain Injured Society is hosting a FREE Bike Rodeo there from 1-3pm for kids aged 5-9 along with their parents. What is a bike rodeo you ask? It’s an event where participants learn bike safety skills and rules of the road. This is perfect timing to get you and your kids up to speed and ready to fill those bike racks in the school yards! You may even be inspired to be a trendsetter and start your own Bicycle Train/Walking School Bus with other kids in the neighborhood.

If you’re not in Prince George, don’t lose heart! Bike rodeos happen all over the province at different times of the year; just keep your eyes and ears peeled so you can take advantage of one near you! In the meantime, get out there, have fun and ride safe!

For more information on active transportation to school, check out the Active & Safe Routes to School website.

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Surviving and thriving Phys. Ed-in school and beyond!

This summer, we want to know what wellness means to you! Share a  photo, story, drawing, or video explaining what wellness means to you for a chance to win a grand prize! To inspire you, we’ve featured regular wellness content on the Northern Health Matters blog all summer long!


basketball

Social connections and a supportive environment are key elements of a successful physical activity program.

As a teen, Physical Education (PE) was my most dreaded class. I went to a very small school, whose focus was not on developing physical literacy skills, and so I missed out on the chance to really explore a variety of sports and activities. I was mediocre at best in the few team sports I did try, so by the time I made the transition into a larger high school with more opportunities, I didn’t have the skills to “make the team.”

At my new school, I had one semester left of mandatory PE class, and this is where my anxiety really bloomed. Not only did I lack the basic skills that most of my classmates had from receiving more vigorous PE training growing up, but I was painfully shy and failing to fit in with the “cool crowd,” while also struggling with the oh-so-common issue of body image. Intimidated and nauseous are two of the best words to describe me in this setting.

In time, I established a solid group of friends, but I couldn’t be done with PE soon enough. The irony of the fact that my current job is to promote increased physical activity is not lost on me! Then again, how many adolescent girls actually liked PE? My interest in physical activity came in later years, and for that I count myself lucky, because that’s clearly not always the case.

woman running

Everyone is unique and needs the opportunity to try different activities to find the right fit for them.

Generally, physical activity levels start dropping in teen years, and the drop is much greater for girls than for boys. A recent study showed that only 2% of Canadian girls between the ages of 12 and 17 are getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity! Why is that? There are many possible reasons for decreasing physical activity levels in adolescent girls (check yes to all that apply, or applied, to you):

  • Lifestyle changes: Getting a drivers’ license, improving technology allowing instant communication, and the increasing need to “fit in” with friends can all add up to less activity.
  • Lack of time: Physical activity is often the first thing to go as teens begin to feel increasing pressure to get good grades, while juggling multiple other commitments such as jobs in and outside of the home, family, and time with friends.
  • Lack of access: Physical activity opportunities tend to decrease in high school. Transportation and cost (of equipment as well as to sign up) are also barriers.
  • Feeling self-conscious and/or unskilled: In addition to regular old body image related self-consciousness, there’s also the anxiety that comes with not knowing how to play a sport well, or even at all. If you combine any of the above with a little “healthy competition,” this can be a recipe for disaster. A negative experience can make participants way less likely to be interested in “giving it another go.”

Children and youth who grow up being active are more likely to become active adults. So, how can we make physical activity and sport a more positive experience for youth, setting them up to develop healthy, active lifestyles that will follow them into adulthood? Here are a few ideas that are applicable to all young participants:

soccer player shaking mans hand

Recognizing the positive impact of physical activity on mental well-being supports the development of life-long participation.

  • Focus on fun! There is a time and place for competition – some people thrive on it – but if physical activity and sport are not made to be enjoyable when first introduced, repeat customers will be far less likely. Creating a low-pressure environment that focuses on building skills and having fun will help individuals feel more confident in a group setting.
  • Variety! In order to find our niche, we need to be able to try a variety of activities to find what fits our interests and abilities best. Again, if we find something we enjoy, we are far more likely to stick with it. Also, introducing new activities allows individuals to learn the skills together, so no one person should be significantly better (or worse) than the rest.
  • Focus on feeling good, not looking good or losing weight: Physical activity releases endorphins that make you feel fantastic, so as well as improving your overall health and getting stronger, it also boosts your mood and self-esteem.
  • Encourage physical activity and healthy choices during leisure time, with family, friends, or individually: Opportunities for participation often disappear altogether after graduation from high school. Having some involvement that is not dependent on the school setting helps smooth the transition into an active adult life.

What motivates you to stay active in the midst of the whirlwind that is daily life? Do you have any ideas for how we can support our younger counterparts to have the confidence and desire to participate in more physical activity and sport?

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Ride into Summer with Bike to Work & School Week

Bike riding on a bike path

Bike paths separated from motor traffic encourage more cycling and improve safety for everyone.

Remember the good old days when your bike was not just your only form of transportation, but your ticket to freedom and independence? The summer would pass in a blink as you racked up countless miles riding anywhere and everywhere on your bike, rolling back home at sunset with “rubber legs” and giddy from all the fun had with friends. I can almost smell the warm summer evening just thinking about it.

Sure, times have changed. We’re adults now. We have jobs, time crunches, deadlines, and commitments. Regardless, we have an excellent opportunity to bring some of that old nostalgia and joy back to the season, as well as set the younger people in our lives on the path to creating their own summer memories: it starts with taking part in Bike to Work (& School) Week from May 29-June 4. I’m guessing once you’ve made a conscious decision to ride rather than drive as much as possible for a week, you will realize so many benefits to cycling that you’ll want to continue this healthy (but fun!) habit for the rest of the summer.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Increased physical activity: Many of us struggle to find the time for physical activity; utilizing active transportation options automatically adds physical activity into our day, which of course brings its own benefits.
  • Increased productivity: The fresh air and adrenaline boost provided by your commute will help you show up at work or school alert, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
  • Improved mental well-being: Taking the time on your commute home to clear your head and burn off some steam will leave you feeling much fresher mentally when you arrive home than you would be after driving.
  • Increased safety: Increasing the number of people who cycle decreases traffic congestion, increases active transportation user visibility, and makes the roads safer for everyone involved.
  • Financial savings: No fuel or parking fees (or tickets!).
  • Environmental benefits: Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions (Bike to Work BC will let you know exactly what your impact is as you log rides… how cool is that?)
  • Social benefits: Being on your bicycle allows you to connect with other cyclists and pedestrians you meet on your commute; the sight of your grinning face as you sail by may also inspire someone else to park their car and ride instead!

I must confess I have not always been a huge fan of cycling. I loved it as a kid, but as I grew up I became very nervous around traffic. And don’t even get me started on mountain biking! Let’s just say “what goes up must come down,” so I can’t see much mountain biking in my future (insert chicken clucking here). However, over the last year I have been rediscovering my love for cycling on paths and roads while being vigilant to protect my safety, following the rules of the road, keeping my eyes and ears on alert to the traffic around me, and riding accordingly. My confidence continues to grow with practice. I will be participating in Bike to Work Week on a Northern Health team for the first time (officially) this year, but it certainly won’t be my last!

Join a team today; you could be the lucky winner of a cycling trip for two on the Dalmation Coast in Croatia! Register here: https://www.biketowork.ca/ – see you on the road!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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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!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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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:

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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