Healthy Living in the North

Wellness in the workplace: Taking the stairs is a marathon

Tanya Carter is pictured on top of a mountain in the snow. In the distance is a snowy mountain range.

Tanya Carter – conqueror of HR administrative tasks, stairs, and the Sugarbowl Mountain hike (pictured).

A couple months ago, I started a new job with Northern Health. It brought me from the fourth floor of our office building to the seventh. My new desk is near the elevator, and I noticed a lot of my floor-mates bypass the elevator doors and opt to take the stairs instead.

I also noticed that there were some gummy treats in the reception area, with a sign that said “Fuel for the stair climbers.” Naturally, I stole one of the gummies and asked, “What do you mean by stair climbers?” Tanya Carter, one of our fantastic Administrative Assistants in Human Resources, then proceeded to tell me about the stair-climbing challenge she organized.

How does the challenge work?

Basically, you’re encouraged to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and to keep track of your steps. Your steps are then entered into a spreadsheet and you can track how far you’ve gone with your stair climbing:

  • 1 mile =2,000 steps
  • 5 km = 6,200 steps
  • 10 km = 12,400 steps
  • Half marathon = 26,200 steps
  • Marathon = 52,400 steps

I thought this was a really cool idea, and after a little bit of peer pressure, I signed myself up for the 10 km. Tanya is really encouraging to those of us in the stair-climbing challenge and an advocate for fitness overall. She and I chatted about physical activity and wellness in the workplace.

A sign is pictured on the door to the seventh floor from the staircase. It says "Way to go! You made it!"

The “congrats” message that stair climbers see everyday.

Tanya, what made you want to start doing the stair-climbing challenge?

“The very first day I came to work here, I took the elevator. I thought, “what am I doing taking the elevator?” After that first day, I promised myself that I’d take the stairs and continue taking them. That was the only day that I’ve used the elevator.

“Usually when I start something, I jokingly (but kind of truthfully) want everybody else to do what I’m doing. Right off the bat, I looked forward to seeing how everybody would react to a stairs challenge. I started the challenge as a fun contest and I kind of warned everybody that I would be starting it, and some people started training for it like they would a marathon.

“When the stair-climbing challenge first started, I let everyone know that they didn’t have to do all the stairs right away. They could take the elevator to the fourth floor and then walk up to the seventh, and that’s how some people have started doing it. Just like in a real marathon, you don’t just go and do 42 kms, you start with 15 minutes and work your way up.”

How do you promote wellness in the workplace?

“That’s just who I am! I like to encourage people in a positive and healthy way. I believe that when you’re healthy, you have more confidence. You don’t have to be a certain size to be strong and healthy. Most recently, I suggested to my desk mates [that they] start an Ice Man team because they’re already starting to run a little bit.”

If someone can’t do stairs at work, how can they get some activity in during the day?

“If you aren’t working, take the stairs when you can, even for an appointment. Parking your car further away can also help get some activity in. Going for a walk is also great. [You can] encourage others to get away from their desks and go for a quick, ten-minute walk.”

Do you have any tips or tricks to stay motivated?

“For sure having a goal and just getting started. The hardest part can be getting started, and once you get going and you are in a routine, it’s the routine that keeps you going.

“[It also helps to have] someone to answer to … a partner or some friends to do an activity with. When someone is waiting for you, it makes you more inclined to be there.

“Another tip is [don’t keep] it to yourself! When you’ve actually admitted it, it makes it real and you don’t want to let people down. I have a saying, it’s not my own but I use it often, and it’s, ‘I never regret going for a run, for a bike ride, or going to cross fit – I regret not going.’ If I stay in bed and skip my run, I get up thinking I wish I would have done it.”

Outside of the workplace, what is your favorite activity to stay active?

“I like long-distance running and cross fit/strength training.”

Thanks to Tanya, I’m getting more activity in my daily routine and the 126 stairs I take to get to my desk are getting a little bit easier… just don’t call me until I’ve managed to catch my breath.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.


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.