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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Youth speak out about mental health

One of the graphics used during the Youth Mental Health campaign. This one says, "How do you take care of your mental health?" There is a silhouette of the side view of a head with a plant growing in it.

We asked youth how they take care of their mental health, and they gave us thoughtful, practical, and useful tips.

We asked — you delivered! During our recent Youth Mental Health campaign (held on Northern Health’s Facebook and Instagram accounts), youth and those who care for them followed along and engaged with energy and enthusiasm. We want to share some of the great ways people are taking care of their mental health. Thanks to all who participated!

Your comments – here’s what you said about how you take care of your mental health:

Communicating

“Communicating how I’m feeling – the good, the not so good, and the downright difficult.”

“Journaling, talking, finding a therapist, daily logs.”

“Reaching out when I know it’s necessary, so I don’t stagnate in a depressed state.”

“Talk to someone – so I don’t feel alone.”

“Express myself and my emotions.”

Goal-setting and planning ahead

“Meet your obligations – regardless of how you feel.”

“I always make it to work and school on time every day. Seems small, but it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something small every day.”

“Keeping a list of daily to-do tasks (and check them off): showers, medication, guitar, stretching.”

“Plan what I’m going to do after class, and build a routine that works for you!”

Connecting – to people, culture, nature, and animals

“Spend time with goofy people in my life, or people who are generally happy makes me feel better in the long run too.”

“Spending time with dogs — walking them brings them joy which makes me feel good. The exercise also boosts my mood even though it’s not something I like doing.”

“Keep family and friends around who I can talk with honestly and will be open with me. FaceTime, call, visit – connect however you like, but please reach out.”

“Connect to culture, pray or help those in need.”

“Having an amazing social support network that I am an equally supportive person to my friends too.”

Self-Care  

“Not put everyone else before myself. No matter how much you love your peers, you are your number one priority.”

“Make a conscious effort not to isolate.”

“Listen to your mind, body, and heart – if you feel overwhelmed or stressed, respect that or take a break if things are frustrating.”

“Look at my scars and credit myself for what I have gone through and survived. I didn’t give up and it was the best decision I ever made because I would have missed out on the best year of my life so far.”

“Validate my own feelings. What I’m feeling in the moment doesn’t define the entirety of my life or being. It’s not realistic to be happy all the time.”

“SLEEP!”

Invite activity into your day!

“Going to the gym. Exercise keeps me focused, happy and healthy. When I have a stressful day or feel pressure from university, I head to the gym to sweat it out.”

“Stretching, yoga, meditation, team sports – it all helps.”

“Listen to calming music, practice gratitude, draw, read, write, go for a drive, take a bath.”

“Get a new hobby.”

“Cleaning and organizing (a drawer, bathroom, inside of car).”

Treatment/Recovery Work

“Visiting my psychiatrist, therapist, clinician regularly.”

“Mood tracking and keeping thoughts positive.”

“Sticking to my recovery plan (medication regime, activity, sleep, social connections).”

“Taking my medication at a designated time every day to make sure I don’t forget.”

“Keep a journal or notebook so I can keep track of symptoms and possible triggers.”

“Be aware of mood and warning signs of relapse so I am able to take a step back and use some of my tools before it gets worse.”

Other bits of wisdom:

“Different things work for different people.”

“Remember that other people care.”

“Spend time with people who uplift you.”

“Over the years, I’ve tried everything to “fix” myself. I have changed my perspective and realized I don’t need fixing. I was just sick, but not in a way that is easy to diagnose or explain to a friend. After I accepted my mental illness, I retried some of the strategies such as journaling, being more active whether that be walking my dog or going to the gym, eating better and sticking to a routine.”

“Limit screen time.”

The campaign’s toolkit can be found on our website.

Stacie Weich

About Stacie Weich

Stacie Weich is the Regional Mental Wellness and Prevention of Substance Harms Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. A passion for people and wellness has driven her to pursue a career in mental health and substance use. The first 10 years of her career were spent at a non-profit in Quesnel. Shen then moved to Prince George to join Northern Health in 2008. Stacie has fulfilled many roles under the mental health and substance use umbrella since then (EPI, ED, NYTC, COAST, AADP, YCOS). In her off time Stacie enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs, and other family and friends in beautiful northern BC!

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I came for… I stayed because… with Gillian McCutcheon

Gillian and her four-year-old daughter, wearing life jackets, in a boat on the Skeena River. The river, forest, and mountains are behind them.

Gillian’s daughter, Polly (4), giving a thumbs up to her first rafting trip on the Upper Skeena.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Gillian McCutcheon, a human resources advisor based in Terrace. Gillian is from Squamish and came to Northern Health in 2015.

I came for…

My husband and I were trying to move to Terrace for about six years. He had been working in the area for a number of years. We knew the area quite well, and liked the closeness to so many activities. It was important for us to be close to water, and not be land locked. We are winter people, and Terrace has all of the winter activities we love to do.

I like the small town feel, and Terrace reminded me of what Squamish felt like 20 years ago. I commuted to Vancouver for work everyday. With our children being so small, it was hard to juggle daycare, the commute, and all of my responsibilities at home. A short commute was very important to me, which made Terrace even more appealing.

Gillian and her eight-year-old daughter wearing their ski gear on a chair lift.

Gillian and her oldest daughter, Maggie (8), skiing at Shames Mountain.

I stayed because…

My work-life balance is great. There are lots of career opportunities at Northern Health to move around and try new things. We’ve always wanted to live on acreage, which we are able to do in Terrace and it’s still only a few minutes from town.

We’ve only been here for four years, which isn’t long, but it feels like home already. Our children really like it here, and there are lots of activities for them to be involved in. Our oldest is really involved in skiing, dance, and Taekwondo. Our youngest has tried dance, t-ball, and yoga already.

We truly feel like part of the community. Unlike Squamish, people live and work here, which is very noticeable. We are active in the ski hill, and enjoy camping, ice skating, and snow shoeing. We recently bought a white water raft and we’re anticipating spending most of the summer on the river. There’s lots to explore, and we feel like we’re only getting started.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Lisa Davison: Community Health Star

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across Northern BC who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. One such person is Lisa Davison, a trail blazer in Prince George for the sport of badminton! Here’s her story.

Lisa tosses a birdie in a gymnasium as a group of young students watches.

Coach Lisa working with students.

Congratulations! You were nominated to be a Community Health Star by Vanessa Carlson! What’s your connection with Vanessa?

Vanessa is a past player in PG’s annual event, and now a friend, who lived in Watson Lake! For about six or seven years, her father would have her and her brother, Jason, come down to our camps and tournaments. I was in contact with the Carlsons on and off during those years, and eventually her father asked me to lead a camp in the Yukon to help them prep for the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games. They flew me up and we held a camp for a week, it was really special.

After that, I saw her and the Yukon team in Kamloops, where I was actually the manager for the BC team. It was pretty funny to see their team (one I had just trained and gotten close with) play, as I managed the BC team. The camaraderie was really great.

Why do you think Vanessa nominated you? What does it feel like to get that sort of recognition from a peer?

It feels amazing to be nominated, especially by Vanessa because she and her family are such amazing people – they’re a really neat bunch.

We keep in touch on Facebook but honestly, this is sort of out of the blue! Vanessa has always been very appreciative of me trying to grow the sport, [telling me], “You’re such an amazing supporter of badminton, way to go!” I’ve always enjoyed hearing that, because I know she’s being sincere, and it’s gratifying to be recognized for something that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into. She was one of the first people to connect with me after I broke the news that I had decided to hang up my high school coaching hat after 16 years, and she was one of the first to congratulate me on winning the Sport BC Community Sport Hero Award.

When you do a lot of volunteer work, you do it for the love of the sport, the kids, and to grow the game. And then, when you feel like “Ahh, I’m going to turn it in…” something amazing happens. A kid sees the light at the end of the tunnel, or you get a Vanessa that says, “Good job!” It keeps sparking you.

On a podium, several people high-five, while two young women hold a plaque.

Lisa and others celebrate a victory.

How did you get into badminton?

Well, that’s a funny story… I was in grade 9 at Kelly Road Secondary School in Prince George, and in the fall my friends kept disappearing after classes. When I asked them what they were up to, they told me that they were playing badminton, and that there was a tournament coming up at the end of the month and, “You should come play.”

I actually had never played badminton before – not even in the backyard! I wound up playing in the tournament and absolutely loved it. So from grade 10 and on, that was it. I was all in on badminton.

What made you want to coach and where did you start?

I was working at Prince George Secondary School in 1993, and I got a phone call from a parent [of a student] who lived in Fort St. John. She mentioned that she’d heard I might be interested in coaching badminton. At that point, I had helped out in some P.E. classes, had some drop-in after school practices here and there, so somewhere someone had made the connection between me and badminton, but I had never coached anyone. I informed the caller that I had no coaching certificates, but I’d give it a try. I had some skills that I could pass on, but I recognized that there was a lot more I had to learn from a coaching perspective.

That student was the start of my coaching life, and I knew that to help him more, I had to learn more. I took communication courses at the college, gradually started setting up classes, and my coaching career grew from there!

How did you start the North Central Badminton Academy in Prince George?

Some years into coaching high school, I started to notice that players quit after they graduated, because there was nowhere to continue competing. In 2000, I started coaching at Heather Park Middle School and some of the grade 8s were able to participate in the high school season at Kelly Road. It was noticeable that many kids were disappointed there was no badminton after the high school season. They had nowhere to practice or continue competing.

I had no idea what to do or how to do it, so I called Badminton BC, and told them that I wanted to start something. After that call, I began to organize visits from high level coaches that lived elsewhere, put on tournaments, and train groups of students. The North Central Badminton Academy was born and I have been happy to see it grow ever since.

Vanessa mentioned that you’ve developed a program that caters to all members of the community, regardless of experience/fitness levels and age. Tell us about that.

There are so many facets to badminton, and it plays into how someone can organize players and create a program that everyone has a place in. There’s the hand-eye component, the physical component, the game sense, and, of course, their age!

I found I had to create beginner programs, intermediate programs, high performance or development squad programs, but also programs for girls and ladies only, and para-athletes. I really enjoy the long term athlete development, and when you have each of these programs running, you get to see players grow, which is awesome.

Any plans for the immediate future?

I would love to take a group to Denmark. There’s amazing badminton over there, and it would be my total coup de grace as I slow things down!

Prince George is also hosting the 2020 Canadian Masters Badminton Championship, which will be great for the sport in Northern BC. I’m not very good at staying stagnant, there’s always pieces in motion! 

Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you Lisa! For all the countless hours of volunteering, and the energy you’ve put into growing the sport of badminton, Northern Health recognizes your efforts and commends you for getting the north moving with the sport of badminton. You truly are a Community Health Star!

To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health Community Health Stars page today!

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Meet our Northern biking champions: Cache from Mackenzie

Cache, wearing his helmet and on his bike, have stopped on a ramp on the street.

Cache is ready to take a jump during Ride to Work & School Week.

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 Cache Carlson, a grade 4 student at Morfee Elementary School in Mackenzie.

What do you like most about biking?

The more I ride to school, the more I can find and hit little jumps along the way!

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

Biking trails… bicycle specific routes.

What type of bike do you ride?

A fitbike 18: BMX!

Any bike tips you’d like to share?

Do preventative maintenance on your bike. I like to fix worn out or broken things on my bike as soon as I notice them.

***

Sounds like Mackenzie might have a budding bike mechanic! A big thank you to Cache for sharing how much fun he has on his ride to school!

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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Big moves with big health rewards

Leah Smith with her dog, Sage, holding a fishing rod near a river.I, like many other healthcare professionals, find taking care of patients to be second nature – it’s just built into who I am. However, when it comes time to taking care of myself, it’s easy for me to neglect my own personal health and well-being.

As healthcare professionals, we’re very good at talking the talk. So, why are so many of us unable to walk the walk? This was a question I found myself pondering after 10+ years working as a pharmacist. As a result, I’ve realized we can’t fully look after our patients if we aren’t talking care of ourselves. This revelation has led me to make some big lifestyle changes this past year.

It wasn’t overnight that I decided I needed to make changes; in fact, my story spans a decade now. I started out my career in 2007 working as a community pharmacist in the Okanagan, and within a year and a half I found myself in a management position. After five years, I decided I needed a change – life had become too busy and hectic, my stress level was off the charts, and ultimately, I just wasn’t happy. So in 2013, I made the move to Smithers to work for Northern Health (NH).

It was a huge move, but I did it for the lifestyle and the opportunities that northern living brings. Since working for NH, I’ve been fortunate to gain experience working in several different roles. I currently have a unique position; my job title is Regional Remote Pharmacist. This means I help cover sites across the region, all the way from Prince Rupert to Dawson Creek! It certainly has its challenges, but I feel lucky that I get to work with so many different individuals across the north.

With this vast repertoire of experience, one of the common themes I continue to realize is that looking after one’s health doesn’t just happen; it takes work and practice to make good lifestyle choices.

Healthy Eating

Our diet is often one of the first things to overlook. With a busy, unpredictable workload, I would often grab things to eat that were easy and quick. These were never whole foods; most often, they were processed and certainly not well balanced. I now try to always have healthy snacks available, and make an effort to think about the food I have around my house, and the choices I make related to eating.

I don’t deprive myself, and I still enjoy special treats and more extravagant meals here and there; it’s just all in moderation. If I’m going to allow myself to overindulge, I plan some sort of extra activity in my day to make up for this special occasion, which brings me to the next big change I made!

Physical Activity

I always thought of myself as an active person because I enjoy the outdoors. I love hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing – really anything that gets me outside. But the reality is, doing these activities once a week doesn’t fulfill our physical activity requirements. Being a weekend warrior doesn’t mean you can take the week off in between and expect to be in peak shape.

So, I recently adopted a 12-week workout challenge, which I now do four times a week! I have a very busy schedule, so in order for me to be successful and stick with it, the workouts were designed to be targeted and short enough that I can complete them during my lunch hour. At seven weeks into the program, I can confidently say that I see and feel big changes in both my health and appearance. This experience has certainly laid the groundwork for incorporating a regular exercise routine into my life!

Mental Wellness

Although the change in diet and exercise have been wonderful, I couldn’t do either if I wasn’t mentally healthy. If I’m not in a healthy frame of mind, the last thing I want to do is exercise and I definitely don’t reach for an apple. For me, the best source of mental strength and balance is in spending time with friends and getting outside to enjoy the fresh air with my four-and-a-half year old German Shorthaired Pointer, Sage.

True friends always have a way of allowing us to show up and be who we truly are, without fear of judgment or recourse. Social engagements with them, whether it’s an activity or meal, is an essential part of keeping me connected and grounded.

My dog keeps me motivated to get out – whether I feel like it or not! We love to go out cross-country skiing in the winter and camping has become our favourite summer pastime, ideally next to a river where we love to fish! I love watching Sage’s enthusiasm when we are out, and more importantly, I love the peace and serenity I feel when I’m standing next to a river, skiing through the snow-capped evergreens, or gazing into a campfire. These places are where I feel the best, and where I go after a busy, hard day at work. These experiences and activities keep my body, and mind, healthy.

 

You can also view this article in Northern Health Spring 2018 edition of the Healthier You Magazine, Wellness by Professionals.

About Leah Smith

Leah Smith is a Regional Support Pharmacist with Northern Health.

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With help from family and Northern Health, wildfire evacuee celebrates 100 years

husband stan and wife ruth.Despite being evacuated to Vanderhoof due to wildfires, Fort St. James resident Stan Northcott was able to enjoy a party for his 100th birthday on August 29.

“He’s doing pretty good for 100,” says his daughter Bonny Northcott. “He still beats me at crib.”

The secret to his long life?

friends and family celebrating around a table.

Stan Northcott, 3rd from right, celebrates with family members in Vanderhoof. L – R: Bonny Northcott, daughter; Paul Foisy, grandson; Rihya Foisy, great granddaughter; Leonard Foisy, son in law; Art Northcott, son; Ruth Northcott, wife; Stanley Northcott, Birthday Boy; Pierce Northcott, grandson; Margaret Northcott, daughter in law. Not shown: Brian Northcott, son; Marie Foisy, daughter.

“He just stayed really active,” says Bonny. “He never stopped moving around. He had lots of family around and lots of hard work, his whole life.”

Family members and Northern Health staff worked together to arrange the birthday celebration at Stuart Nechako Manor in Vanderhoof, Stan’s temporary home during the wildfires. Northern Health staff stepped up to pull together the celebration on top of coping with an influx of wildfire evacuees.

“Arranging the party was fun,” says Marnie Bell, Recreation Therapist. “Stan was full of smiles!”

Working together, Stan’s family and Northern Health staff coordinated special decorations, balloons, live music, refreshments, and two cakes (‘cause when you turn 100, you deserve two cakes!).

Letter from Prime Minister Trudeau.To help him celebrate, Stan’s family came from Vancouver, Mackenzie, Fort St. James, Norman Lake, and Beaverlodge, Alberta.

“The facility in Vanderhoof is beautiful,” said Bonny. “They’re really nice there. When we arrived for the party, the staff had a big room all set up with decorations and a cake.”

Stan Northcott military photo.“Kudos to Marnie Bell and Halainna Ellis for all their hard work,” said Chona Dick, Clinical Care Coordinator. “Stan had the biggest smile on his face, it was really cute. Then he blew out the candles, and he only had two girlfriends!”

Best wishes to Stan Northcott for many happy returns!

 

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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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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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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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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