Healthy Living in the North

Moving and eating well on road trips

Lasalle Lake is pictured. There's a floating dock in the lake, and forest and mountains in the background.

The view of Lasalle Lake — a beautiful way to break up the trip between Prince George and Valemount!

Even though it feels like summer is flying by, it’s only mid-August, and there’s still plenty of summer-road-trip time before the weather turns! I love me a road trip: the conversation that arises from being in a car with someone for hours; the tunes and the awful, off-key karaoke; and all of the stops along the way!

Those stops are generally for any combination of food, scenery, or a bio-break, but there’s also a great health benefit. After hours of sitting, it’s important to move! The same concerns that you hear around sedentary workplaces and lifestyles apply to long-distance travel. While it’s great to get to your destination ASAP, sitting less and moving more is always a good choice.

Admittedly, I’m not great at making the kinds of stops that make for positive heath impacts, but my wife loves to get out and enjoy the scenery. Recently, before heading home to Prince George from Valemount, she asked a local if there was a good lake to stop at on our route home. He told us to check out Lasalle Lake, and it was gorgeous! On top of enjoying a stunning view, stopping gave us a chance to get some steps in (time that we counted towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week), have a stretch, and take a swim before carrying on. That stop added a nice “bonus” memory to the trip too! And it was as easy as asking someone, followed by a quick search on Google Maps. Just remember to always choose a location that suits your fitness level.

I also find planning to stop at an outdoor location challenges us to pack a lunch in a cooler, which usually ends up being healthier than the fast food options on the side of the highway. We usually do sandwiches, but sometimes we treat ourselves to a little meat and cheese board (nom-nom-nom!). Regardless of how healthy we pack, we always feel less rushed and enjoy our food more when we’ve found a nice spot to relax. As the primary driver, I always feel more refreshed and in a better headspace for driving too.

Do you have a favourite place to stop between destinations? What’s in your picnic basket when you stop for lunch? Let me know in the comments below, and safe travels!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Sometimes you walk, sometimes you run, sometimes… you bounce!

Four women standing in workout attire in front of an inflatable part of the Bounce Run.

We did it! (L-R) Desa, Sandy, Bonnie and I took on the challenge of the 5K Mega Bounce Run, and what fun we had!

Have you ever watched people do crazy and fun things for physical activity and think, “Man, that would be so fun, I should do that!”… and then you chicken out? You chicken out because you think you can’t do it, because you might look or feel silly, or you’re not in good enough shape to do the whole thing? Me too!

That’s always me – or I should say, that was always me. But no more. When my good friend asked me and a few other women about the 5K Mega Bounce Run, I knew that I had to do it, and I wasn’t going to chicken out this time!

Up until the morning of this amazing 5K of bouncing, sliding, climbing, rolling, and oh so much laughing with three awesome women, I’ll admit, I was trying to find a way out. Thankfully, their enthusiasm and good nature convinced me to power through my cold feet, and I did.

Lorrelle and her friends running through an inflatable obstacle course at the Mega Bounce Run.

Lorrelle and her friends participating at the Mega Bounce Run.

Good exercise was just an added bonus. For me, this was about doing something new and fun as a team of women who work together every day. Busy as we are in our work and personal lives, we took the time to hang out and go crazy for two hours on a beautiful Saturday morning! (It took some more serious athletes much less time.) We stuck together, cheered each other on, and lifted each other up (literally, at times).

Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is the best way to find out if you enjoy something new, especially when it comes to getting active! I know now that I’ll be looking for more goofy 5Ks to conquer with my pals.

Activities like this are contagious! Now, as my friend did for me, I’m encouraging our fellow employees to join our team of “Northern Stars” to come out and bounce through a 5K with us.

Thank you to my friend Desa for introducing me to this new addiction, and to Bonnie and Sandy for making it happen. Our team is looking for competition next year. Are you up for something new?

Until then…smile and bounce on.

Lorrelle Hall

About Lorrelle Hall

Born and raised in Prince George BC, Lorrelle loves her hometown and is proud to be a PG girl, through and through! She and husband Lyn have raised twin daughters, and love being active in the community. Lorrelle works as an Executive Assistant to the Northern Health Communications team, and works closely with the Hospital Auxiliaries and Foundations. When not at work, she loves to spend time with her kids, mother, many siblings, and friends! She loves to volunteer, and travel wherever the sun is shining!

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Why getting a dog was the best thing I ever did for my mental health

Haylee smiles for the camera as her dog sniffs the side of her head. A meadow is in the background.

Having a dog has been great for my mental health.

I recently became a “dog mom” and I’ve noticed that it’s been great for my mental health!

Like life, my mental health has highs and lows. Stress, not sleeping properly, not moving my body enough, and not taking the time to feed myself nutritious meals can all contribute to my mental-health lows. When I make an effort to take care of these things, it improves my mental health and I generally feel much better. Lately, my mental health has had a boost, and it’s thanks to my dog! Let me tell you a little bit about her.

My rescue dog

I’d been thinking about getting a dog for a while when the opportunity to adopt came up. Growing up, my family always had dogs, so I knew I wanted one of my own one day. Scrolling through Facebook one afternoon, a post by my local SPCA caught my eye — they had dogs available for adoption! I went down to see them at once.

Dogs and “pawsitive” mental health

I ended up finding my perfect dog at the SPCA: a sweet girl named Paris. They say having a dog changes your lifestyle — in my case, it’s been for the better!

A white poodle walks through a meadow.

Walking my dog gets me outdoors and moving – both are linked to positive mental health.

Here are my three reasons why dogs are great for your mental health:

  1. Dogs get you outside and active
    Any responsible dog “parent” knows that dogs need daily exercise and stimulation. Since getting Paris, daily walks outside have become part of my routine! Studies show that being in nature positively effects your mental health. Whether we’re walking in our neighborhood or at the park, I’m outdoors when walking my pooch. This helps me clear my head and calm down if it’s been a tough day. Research also shows that physical activity, like walking, is linked to positive mental health. Sometimes Paris and I walk for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour — it all counts toward my physical activity goals and helps me feel better.
  2. Dogs encourage you to be social
    Social connectedness, or feeling close or connected to others, is linked to positive mental health. Since getting Paris, I’ve met more of my neighbours and met other people at the dog park. These little interactions bring a smile to my face and make me feel more connected to my community.
  3. Dogs provide comfort and companionship
    Dogs seem to have a sixth sense that tells them when their humans aren’t well. If I’m sick or sad, Paris is at my side, ready to cuddle until I feel better. And if my friends are busy or cancel plans, I know I have a companion to count on. Being alone can make me feel lonely sometimes, but no matter what, I know there’s a wagging tail waiting for me at the end of the day.

Do you have a dog or pet? How do they help your mental health? Let me know in the comments below!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Sedentary Behaviours – They’re not all created equal!

The sun sets over water in the distance. The sky is blue and gold punctuated by clouds. In the foreground, a silhouette watches the beautiful scene.

Some sedentary behaviours are good for your well-being, like taking in a soothing sunset.

The new smoking.” Sedentary time (time spent in a sitting or lying position while expending very little energy) has come under fire for its negative health effects lately. While there are certainly significant health risks associated with time spent being sedentary, calling it “the new smoking” is a bit of a scare tactic – smoking is still riskier.

At this point, you might be starting to doubt my intentions. After all, my job is to promote increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behaviour in the name of better health. Fear not! I’ll get there yet.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five years of age:

This is really exciting because the WHO took the evidence used in the development of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4), reviewed more evidence, and reinforced these main messages:

  • Kids need to get a good amount and variety of physical activity each day.
    • For those under one year, being active several times a day including floor-based play and tummy time.
    • For kids between one to two years of age, at least three hours at any intensity throughout the day.
    • For kids between three to four years of age, at least three hours, including at least one hour of higher intensity activity throughout the day.
  • Kids need to get enough – and good quality – sleep!
    • For those under one year, the recommendation is 12-17 hours including naps.
    • For ages one to two, 11-14 hours.
    • For ages three to four, 10-13 hours.
  • Kids need to spend less (or limited) time being restrained and sitting in front of screens.
    • Translation? Not being stuck in a stroller or car seat for more than one hour at a time. Screen time isn’t recommended for children under two years, and it’s recommended to limit sedentary screen time to no more than one hour for kids aged between two and four.

Here’s what I really appreciate about this last part, and what I think actually applies to all ages: the recommendation is to replace restrained and sedentary screen time with more physical activity, while still ensuring a good quality sleep. However, it doesn’t tell us to avoid all sedentary time completely. In fact, this concept recognizes that there are a number of sedentary activities (particularly in the early, developmental years, but also for all ages) that are very valuable from a holistic wellness perspective.

For children, these higher quality sedentary activities include quiet play, reading, creative storytelling and interacting with caregivers, etc. For adults, things like reading a book, creating something, making music, or working on a puzzle can contribute to our overall wellness by expanding our minds and focusing on something positive.

So, what I’m saying is this: yes, for the sake of our health, we need to sit less and move more. However, not all sedentary behaviours are terrible or need to be eliminated completely. Generally, the sedentary behaviours that we, as a society, need to get a handle on are the ones involving staring at screens and numbing our brains. This is not to say that we should never watch TV or movies, or scroll through social media; we just need to be mindful of it, and try to swap out some of these activities in favour of moving our bodies more. We need to recognize the difference between those sedentary activities that leave you feeling sluggish and dull versus those that leave you inspired and peaceful. Do less of what dulls you, and more of what inspires you, for a balanced, healthy life!

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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Anna from Mackenzie

A woman standing astride her bike on the side of the road. The bike is towing a child trailer with a child wearing a helmet sitting side.

Anna is sporting her studded winter bike tires and chariot, which help her and her daughter get around town safely.

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Anna Kandola, a Dietitian and Kinesiologist in Mackenzie.

Why do you bike to work and what do you like most about it?

We decided it would be a good option instead of having a second car – better for health, finances and the environment. It wakes me up and gives me more energy through the day to have had a bit of activity in the morning!

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work OR school?

More bike racks available in the winter.

Any biking tips you’d like to share?

I have studded tires for winter riding which seem to help a lot. The chariot makes it so we can transport our daughter easily, so I can’t use her as an excuse not to bike.

***

A big thank you to Anna for sharing some ideas on how to make biking an easier option year-round!

Are you a winter cyclist? Please share your tips and tricks with us for staying safe, warm, and dry on two wheels!

 

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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Mattie from Mackenzie

A young girl, wearing a black and pink hoodie, poses with her red bike and helmet.

Mattie would like to thank her mom for lending out her bike until Mattie can get a new one…”Thanks, Mom!”

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Mattie Ludvigson, a grade 7 student at Mackenzie Secondary School.

Why do you bike to school?

I used to walk because I lived so close to the elementary school. Now that I go to the high school, I bike because it’s a bit further away, and biking takes less time. Plus, I know some short cuts!!

What do you like most about biking?

I like that I can meet up with friends and bike with them!

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work or school?

Something to encourage them more (both adults and kids)… maybe a reward of some type given out randomly?!

Any bike tips you’d like to share?

The best place to ride your bike is when you are out camping… you must ALWAYS remember to pack your bike… then go make your own trails!

***

Thanks, Mattie, for sharing your reasons and motivation for riding your bike!

What kind of incentives do you think would work to get more people riding in your community? We’d love to hear from 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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Laurel from Prince George

A woman wearing a bike helmet, perched on an orange bicycle, on a sidewalk downtown.

Laurel has been cycle commuting for about 13 years in multiple cities including Toronto, Vancouver, and now Prince George, with her trusty steed, Beatrice the Second.

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Laurel Burton, Population Health Dietitian in Prince George.

Why do you bike to work?

So many reasons! But the most important reason is that it’s environmentally sustainable and helps reduce my carbon footprint.

What do you like most about biking?

It’s a great way to fit some physical activity in, and it makes getting active easier!

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work or school?

A strong commitment from local municipality to promoting safer active transportation initiatives and improved active transportation infrastructure; having some roads that are car-free, especially downtown, while still ensuring infrastructure for vehicle parking.

Anything you’d like to share to encourage others to bike?

The best way to encourage people is to create an environment where it’s easier for people to bike. Considering our environment, air quality, etc., and looking for ways to make an impact is important.

***

Thanks, Laurel, for encouraging us to get out there on our bikes for the benefit of not only our own health, but also the environment!

Join the Bike to Work & School movement! Register today and log at least one ride (I bet you’ll want to ride more!) to win a cycling trip for two in the Prosecco Hills of Italy.

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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Esther from Mackenzie!

Two youth posing with their bikes.

Esther says that “biking is a healthy activity…it’s good for ALL of your body,” and her friend & biking buddy Charlotte agrees!

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2, 2019), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Esther McIntyre, a grade 6 student at Morfee Elementary.

Why do you bike to school and what do you like best about biking?

It’s the fastest way to get to school! I think it’s a safer form of transportation than driving (beyond the fact that I’m in grade 6 and can’t drive!). Visibility is better – both people being able to see YOU biking with your helmet on, and you can see everything that’s going on around you when you are biking, more than you would see in a car.

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work OR school?

We could use a few more bike racks in town, and some more sidewalks for the young bikers to bike on safely.

What type of bike do you ride?

My mom’s as I grew out of mine. I’d like to get a mountain bike.

Any biking tips you’d like to share?

An important thing for safe biking is to be aware of your strengths and limitations, and it’s good to know what gears you feel comfortable riding in.

***

A big thank you to Esther for sharing some really helpful insights, and a shout out to Moe Hopkins, NH Support Worker, for connecting with Esther!

If you haven’t participated in Bike to Work & School Week before, why not make this your year? We’d love to hear about your experiences riding in your home community.

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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Barb from Mackenzie!

Barb Paterson, smiling in a yellow reflective biking jacket, and riding a bike.

Barb is a champion for students by assisting with the Bike to School events at Morfee Elementary School. Learn more about bike to school and work week at www.biketowork.ca

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we will be featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Barb Paterson, a retired nurse from Mackenzie.

Why do you ride?

I love to bike. I am retired but have always liked biking, so I try to bike as often as I can. I like biking because I love how you can go anywhere, and I like the exercise.

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work OR school?

We just need to keep working with the GoByBike [Society] and grow the profile of biking in town. It seems to be increasing the number of kids on bicycles in Mackenzie!

What do you ride?

I ride a custom built Santa Cruz that Phil Evanson in Prince George creatively built by mixing and matching bike parts and components. I love it. He rounded up everything I wanted in a bike and put it together for me.

Any biking tips you’d like to share?

It amazes me how often I see parents cycling with their children, where the kids have helmets on but not the adults! Parents: protect YOUR brains too and set a good example for your children by wearing your helmet when you’re biking!

***

Shout out to Moe Hopkins, NH Support Worker & Community Champion herself, for seeking out and interviewing Barb!

It’s not too late to participate in Bike to Work & School week – register now and log at least one ride to be eligible to win the grand prize of a cycling adventure for two in Italy!

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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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!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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