Healthy Living in the North

Therapeutic Recreation: a holistic approach to health

February is Therapeutic Recreation month, and although I don’t currently work in the field, I am very proud to have focused my education and first part of my career on this helping profession. Not many people are familiar with Therapeutic Recreation, also known as Recreation Therapy; it has been confused with such things as sports medicine and physiotherapy, but also has been shrugged off as simply any activity to combat boredom. Let me set the record straight on that, because Recreation Therapists are working non-stop to provide programs that are purposeful and goal-oriented down to an individual level.

Therapeutic Recreation is defined as “a health care profession that utilizes a therapeutic process, involving leisure, recreation and play as a primary tool for each individual to achieve their highest level of independence and quality of life” (CTRA, 2017).

seniors playing floor curling.

Being physically active in a group setting and cheering others on helps form social connections and bolster self-esteem.

Recreation Therapists can be found in a variety of settings, including:

  • Assisted living/seniors’ housing
  • Long term care
  • Children’s hospitals
  • Mental health services
  • Rehabilitation centres
  • Day centres
  • Private practice
  • …and many more.

One of the things that (in my mind) makes therapeutic recreation a unique and special field is its truly holistic approach to health. While many health care professions tend to be very targeted to one aspect of a patient’s health, recreation therapy works to improve the health of the person as a whole; they may focus on physical needs, but they may pay just as much attention to the emotional, cognitive, social, and/or spiritual needs that make up a person’s overall quality of life.

There are many benefits related to taking part in physical programming. Many chronic disease symptoms can be avoided, delayed, or better managed through physical activity. Working on maintaining or improving core strength and balance can help reduce the risk of falls. It’s also important to note that the benefits of participating in a physical program extend beyond the obvious goal of maintaining or increasing physical function. Participants may realize they’re gaining social connections as a result of taking part in physical programming as part of a group; they will likely experience a mood boost following participation; realizing they are capable of more than they were previously (or had expected to be) can also do much to bolster confidence and self-esteem.

I was able to catch up with a local Recreation Therapist, Jaymee Webster, to get her perspective on the benefits of therapeutic recreation programming in her work settings of inpatient rehabilitation unit and outpatient geriatric rehabilitation day program.

“Often when individuals are engaged in all aspects of the rehabilitation process they have better outcomes. Through recreation and physical activity our patients have the opportunity to see their progress from other therapies translate to meaningful engagement. For example, an individual working on regaining strength in the upper extremities feels a sense of accomplishment when they are able to score points in a game of floor curling.”

If you know or work with a Recreation Therapist or team providing therapeutic recreation programs, take a moment this month to watch them at work. Their creativity and passion for working to improve the lives of others at an individual level are truly inspiring.

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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IMAGINE Grant: Teeing off on Toboggan Hill

Formed in early 2016, the Fort St. John Disc Sports Club set out with the goal of bringing the game of disc golf to Fort St. John. With the support of City Council, the club was able to install a temporary 9-hole disc golf course on Toboggan Hill in July 2016; temporary to ensure that the community was on board and that the location for the course was the right one.

Since the installation of the temporary course, the club has seen a rapid increase in interest in disc golf. Over the past year, volunteer club members have donated instruction time and equipment to local schools and organizations to introduce community youth to the sport.

What is disc golf? It’s much like regular golf but uses a disc (Frisbee) instead of a golf ball and clubs. Players throw the disc from the tee area towards the target, which is a basket. Each throw begins at the spot where your last disc throw landed. The goal of the game is to get your disc to the target in the least amount of throws, just like regular golf!

There’s a major difference between disc golf and regular golf, however: cost. Access to the disc golf course in Fort St. John is free and equipment costs are very affordable compared to other sports. Club members note that with the economic downturn of the region, offering a low cost activity where people and families are able to get outside and enjoy nature while being physically active is a benefit for everyone. The Disc Sports Club does offer yearly memberships for $20 that are directed towards club events and activities and to support course maintenance. Membership privileges also include a custom-made bag tag, BC Disc Sports insurance, and voting rights for the club meetings.

Another difference between the two sports is accessibility. Disc golf is a low-impact sport that can be played by people of all ages and abilities. One of the club members is able to enjoy the activity from her motorized scooter!

man throwing disc at bucket

Disc golf is a perfect recreational summer sport!

With seed funding support from a Northern Health IMAGINE Community Grant in the fall of 2016, the FSJ Disc Club was able to purchase permanent baskets for the course. Club president Clint Warkentin shared a funny story about the day they installed the permanent baskets this May:

On the day of our basket installation, we were informed that there was a bear in the same park as us! The bear hung around all day, following us from hole to hole as we installed the baskets. Police were always near us, making sure we were safe. We never had any close encounters, but it was always on our mind. True northerners, risking our lives for the sake of the community!”

The City of Fort St. John has been very supportive of the project and will be partnering with the club to complete the course to include tee pads, tee signs, and course signs. Community members are also pleased to see positive activity taking place at Toboggan Hill, an area that neighborhood residents had felt needed some improvements.

Neighbouring communities are also taking part in the excitement that disc golf is creating for the region.

Having a permanent course is really good for the whole Peace Region,” said Warkentin. “There are now courses in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Grande Prairie. The partnership between Dawson Creek Disc Golf Club and our club has really been strengthened and we are continuing to work together as partners (and rivals!).”

IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We look for applicants that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. 

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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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:

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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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:

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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The community that plays together, stays together

When I sat down to talk with Jennel Harder, recreation director for the Village of Fraser Lake, the vast number and type of recreation activities available in her community became instantly clear.

As we sat on the shores of Fraser Lake – the beautiful blue sky and lakeside benches making an outdoor meeting simply too tempting – all I had to do was turn my head to see a handful of healthy activities. Outdoor exercise equipment, a new playground, a shed for community canoes, a bandstand, and walkers and runners on a trail along the water’s edge. And then I saw Jennel’s list.

Earlier in the week, I had asked what types of activities exist for children, youth, families, and seniors in her community. And there, in her hand, was a sheet of paper covered front and back with a list of activities unlike any I had ever seen for a community of just under 1,000 residents.

“We have the skateboard park, junior golf team, Men’s Shed, downhill biking, music, ball hockey,” started Harder, as I scrambled to write notes – missing what I’m sure were dozens of other recreation opportunities. “Over the summer we offer four major weeklong camps for kids: Xplore Sports, Xplore Arts, Xplore Science, and Xplore Adventure. We have great Family Day events, a provincially competitive carpet bowling team, hiking trails, a Christmas charity hockey game. And our bluegrass festival, the Festival of the Arts, and the show and shine are all popular events.”

parade with brown mouse and grey cat mascot

This is a community that easily becomes home.

Then came Harder’s confession: “As I started to write these down,” she shared, “I didn’t realize how much we have. No one can say we have an inactive town!”

There’s a simple but powerful statement that Harder constantly thinks about when she and the Village of Fraser Lake support these different recreation opportunities: “The community that plays together, stays together.” With this in mind, Harder supports programs that not only appeal to a wide variety of community members but also looks for activities that families can do together, like the Pumpkin Walk, groomed cross-country ski trails, and craft days for children and their parents. “I want to challenge the compartmentalizing of activities: Susie’s soccer and Jimmy’s pottery and dad’s hockey night. I’m always looking for things that families and community members can do together.”

“Fraser Lake is such a great playground,” shared Harder. “And we like to create and support programs that celebrate that outdoor playground! We have 170 lakes within a 50 km radius of our town. I want to challenge the trend towards screens. Sitting in front of screens takes its toll. More and more, people seem to be pulling straight into their garages and then hiding out in their homes. Having avenues to reach out and connect is what makes communities like Fraser Lake last.”

According to Harder, the Village of Fraser Lake has a dual role here: they both create recreation opportunities and they serve as a hub to let people know what is happening in town.

When exploring new opportunities, Harder is open to trying anything once! “Our programs respond to local needs,” said Harder. “We keep it simple but that lets me be responsive. We had some local seniors ask about adding pickleball lines to our facilities, for example. I looked into the sport, looked at opportunities to partner with community members to offer it, and now we have pickleball nets and lines being set up soon!”

When it comes to being a hub, Harder’s role is to connect with local organizations and make sure that others know about their recreation opportunities. In these cases, the Village of Fraser Lake might advertise the program or event, work with local service providers, provide space, support grant applications, and more. “Anything that helps the program be successful is the Village’s responsibility,” shared Harder. A few examples of this support include karate offered locally by a private instructor, the Fraser Lake Saddle Club and its local gymkhanas, Autumn Services (a seniors’ drop-in centre), and the Fraser Lake indoor playground – a new activity held at the local arena thanks to funding from Northern Health.

As Harder continued to list programs during our conversation – the Outdoor Adventure Klub (OAK), crib night, mud bogs, the splash park, the daffodil tea – she paused for a moment. “The best part of town,” she said, “is the people. These programs wouldn’t exist without the people.” Whether it’s the families who take part in craft days or the local fusion glass artists who volunteer their time to teach a course, Fraser Lake comes together around recreation.

“For me,” said Harder, “a healthy Fraser Lake is a community that is active, involved, and engaged. This can take work, but it’s happening here. I think that we’ve able to achieve this because we keep it simple and have gone back to basics – just getting people together and offering a range of activities. We keep things affordable and accessible here, and that brings neighbours together.”

“This is a community that easily becomes home,” said Harder. “Remember: the community that plays together, stays together.”

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Falling is not a “right of passage”; Falls Prevention Awareness Week

I’m approaching my 40th birthday. From where I stand now it seems impossible to me, that as kids we celebrated my parents 40th birthdays with black balloons, a cane, candy jellybean “pill” bottles, and a larger than life sign signifying “Over the Hill”.

Like these 40th birthday traditions, our culture embraces some aspects of aging that don’t make any sense. Take senior’s falls as an example, somehow as a society we accept that the majority of people experience a fall at some point as they age. Did you know that, for all age ranges, falling is a lead cause for injuries requiring hospitalization? No matter what age, we must all remember, falls are preventable!

November 6-12, 2017, marks the Finding Balance BC Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Falling, tripping, or slipping happens now and then to all of us, but falling with risk of serious injury does not have to be a normal part of aging.

seniors, falls prevention

Keeping active now helps prevent future falls.

What can you do?

  • Get up and go.
    • Keep your body moving and active. Focus on strong muscles and good balance. Strength and balance exercises are key to reducing the risk of falling.
  • Have your eyes checked.
    • Visiting an optometrist once a year can reduce your risk of falling.
  • Review your medications.
    • Bring everything you take (both prescription and non-prescription) to your pharmacy or doctor for a review.
  • Make small changes to your home.
    • Simple hazards are sometimes overlooked and often, easily fixed.
    • Install handrails and guardrails where needed.
    • Add lighting in hallways and nightlights in bathrooms and bedrooms.
    • Secure or remove area rugs so they don’t become tripping hazard in your home.
    • Salt and sand walkways in winter months.

With November and my birthday approaching, let’s challenge the social norms -I refuse to blow up a single black balloon! Falling is not a “right of passage”, and making small changes to our lifestyle and surroundings is a smart investment to our health and well-being, no matter what age.

Join Northern Health and participate in the BC Finding Balance Falls Prevention Week. Visit the Finding Balance BC website and talk to your doctor if you have had a slip, trip, or fall in the last year.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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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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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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Take the clue… don’t do the chew!

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!


Thlittle boy up for bat baseballis is the slogan that a little leaguer from Darien, Connecticut submitted to win a spit tobacco education program slogan contest. It was part of an awareness campaign to help young people avoid the harmful effects of spit tobacco that causes oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay, and nicotine addiction.

In our northern BC region, the use of smokeless/chewing tobacco is most prevalent in young men; they often start using these products when they are teens and involved in team sports. Once they are hooked, it’s hard to stop.

Although there are fewer people smoking cigarettes in Canada, the sales of smokeless tobacco have remained relatively unchanged over the last 15 years.

Tobacco companies target young people with messages to promote their products and often associate spit tobacco with sports. They have spent millions of dollars per year to promote their products to teen boys to make them believe they cannot be real men unless they chew.boy leaning against fence

We can help break the association of spit tobacco with sports such as baseball and hockey. Major league baseball recognizes health risks of chewing tobacco and almost half of their stadiums are now tobacco free. Rogers Centre in Toronto is next!

Both of my grandchildren, ages 6 and 8, who live in Prince George, are playing baseball this season and I am happy that I have not observed the use of spit tobacco on the field or in the stands.

Let’s “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park!”


In this story, as in most public health messages, “tobacco use” refers to the use of commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco as opposed to traditional uses of tobacco.

 

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