Healthy Living in the North

Active living: Every day, your way!

Young girl on a bicycle.

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

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

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

So how much activity do youth need?

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

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

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

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

Man and two children building a snowman

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

Why is this important again?

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

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

So how do you get started?

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

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

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

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

Where to get more information

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

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

What are you waiting for?

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

 

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

 

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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Make health fun in 2015

Two skiers on a chairlift on a ski hill.

Getting outside and trying new activities are two ways that Mandy plans to make health fun in 2015. How will you make health fun?

As 2014 comes to an end, many of us already have New Year’s resolutions dancing through our heads, wondering what commitments we will make to improve our health for 2015.

It seems as though exercising more, saving money, losing weight and quitting smoking are what most people hope to achieve for the upcoming year. The problem with resolutions is that 60% of adults make these promises each year but, of those, only about 40% will be successful. I admit that I have been guilty of this in the past: my commitment to run a half-marathon is going on six years and I don’t think this will be the year, either. So this year, I am taking a new approach: I am going to commit to having some fun in 2015!

Not “whoop it up and book a trip to Vegas” fun, but thinking of ways to improve my health with a focus on enjoyment at the same time. I am going to commit to:

  • Trying activities that are new to me. Zumba? Cross-country skiing? Geocaching? Yoga? Maybe I’ll find something I like and stick with it – and I have a better chance of accomplishing this if I bring a buddy with me!
  • Healthy meal planning. In the hustle and bustle of life, I often find it a struggle to make nutritious and delicious choices for my family at mealtimes and it’s not fun to be scrambling at the last minute. For 2015, I will focus more on meal preparation. I plan to enlist the help of my friends for new recipe ideas and my kids to help out in the kitchen. Maybe I will fit in a few potlucks and dinners with friends, too!
  • Getting outside more often. I really enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air and dose of vitamin D come as added bonuses. We have amazing natural environments in northern B.C. and four wonderful seasons. I will enjoy these with more snowshoeing, exploring new trails, playing soccer with my kids, bike riding, and going wherever my feet can take me! By committing to this at least a few times a week, I will also get in my recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week!

How will you make health fun in 2015?

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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Active for what?

Family playing soccer outdoors.

We know that we need to be physically active, but how active and for how long? For adults, the guideline to follow is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.

We all know that physical activity has many health benefits – but are we getting enough and how much do we actually need to achieve these health benefits?

Incorporating regular physical activity into our daily routines reduces the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Other benefits include:

  • decrease your risk of high blood pressure
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • increase your mental well-being

Active people are also more productive, sick less often, and at less risk for injury. Basically, becoming more active will improve your overall health, well-being, and quality of life.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology released the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines in 2011, in an effort to help Canadians become healthier and more active. The guidelines outline the amount and types of physical activity by different age groups that are required to achieve health benefits.

For adults aged 18-64 years, the goal is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, in intervals of at least 10 minutes or more. The guidelines also recommend adding muscle and bone strengthening activities that use major muscle groups, at least two days per week.

Moderate-intensity activities are those activities that will cause us to sweat a little and breathe harder. These include things like brisk walking and bike riding. Vigorous-intensity activities should cause us to sweat more and be “out of breath.” Activities like jogging, swimming, or cross-country skiing are considered vigorous-intensity and can be included as your endurance and fitness levels increase.

Does 150 minutes of physical activity per week sound overwhelming?
Breaking down the 150 minutes to 30 minutes per day, five days per week may sound more enticing and achievable for some people. In a very motivating visual lecture titled 23 and ½ Hours, Dr. Mike Evans discusses how 30 minutes of physical activity per day is the “single best thing we can do for our health.” If you have not seen the video, it is definitely worth checking out!

For many people who have never led an active lifestyle or played sports, becoming more physically active may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Start slow and gradually increase your daily physical activity to meet the guidelines. Move more and sit less throughout the day – remember, every move counts! Being active with co-workers, friends, and family is a great way to achieve your physical activity goals while having fun.

Resources to get you started:

  • The Physical Activity Line: British Columbia’s primary physical activity counselling service and free resource for practical and trusted physical activity information.
  • Healthy Families BC: A provincial strategy aimed at improving the health and well-being of British Columbians at every stage of life. The site contains great resources and information for health and wellness.
  • ParticipACTION: The national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. Through social marketing and collaborative partnerships, they inspire and support Canadians to live healthy, active lives. Great information and programs available!

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

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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International Walk to School Week (iWalk): put on those backpacks and walk!

A boy and girl walk to school, back packs on.

Mandy’s kids celebrating iWalk week as they head to school.

“Hurry up or you’re going to miss the bus!” Unfortunately, this phrase has been common in my household, every morning, since moving to Prince George last year. Despite my attempts to get my children ready for the day and despite the fact that it’s only four minutes from our house to the bus stop, they always dawdle and end up running out the door at the last minute! We came from a small city where there were no local school buses and most children walked to school every day. While I love the decision we made to move to beautiful B.C., I love my children more, and crossing busy Highway 97 would never, ever be an option for them! The fact that they do not have the daily option to walk to school leaves me, as a mother and an advocate for physical activity, putting thought into juggling of my own schedule to see how I can make time for them to walk with their friends on a regular basis.

October 6-10, 2014 is International Walk to School Week (iWalk) and during it, I will be making a conscious effort to have my kids off the bus and walking to school. This initiative is an annual global event by the Active and Safe Routes to School Program. It’s a mass celebration of active transport, promoting daily physical activity among kids, enhanced healthy environments and an overall sense of community.

Why should this matter to you? Did you know:

  • Two out of three Canadian kids are not getting enough exercise each day.
  • Active school transport (walking or wheeling) can increase a student’s ability to concentrate.

We ensure that our children are nourished to fuel their bodies, starting the day with a healthy breakfast and packing healthy lunches to sustain them during the day, but sometimes we forget the importance of their daily physical activity. Children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Getting kids walking or wheeling to school whenever possible would definitely contribute to meeting these recommended daily guidelines.

So, as my family has no plans to move from our current house to be closer to school anytime in the near future, the bus will be the usual daily mode of transportation for my children while they attend elementary school. However, this week I am going to celebrate iWalk with my children and drive them to school each day – parking a few blocks from the school and walking with them and their friends to the school grounds. On top of watching them walk with their friends, I’m also looking forward to getting some activity into my day as well!  Every move counts!

What is your family planning for iWalk?

For more info on iWalk check out:

http://www.iwalktoschool.org/whoswalking/canada.cfm

http://healthyschoolsbc.ca/program/334/walk-and-wheel-to-school-week

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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