Healthy Living in the North

Active school travel planning for improved health and better grades

The transition from summer to autumn, with back to school and back to regular routines, is always a busy time. Hopefully you’ve managed to find time for outdoor activity, taking advantage of the evening light while we still have it, and not just hiding inside, staring at screens.

Stats on the rates of active transportation in children.Increasingly, research is telling us a few disturbing facts:

  • We’re not active enough to reap the numerous health benefits associated with being physically active.
  • We are spending far too much time being sedentary (seated or lying down, often staring at a screen), so much so that we are at greater risk of chronic disease.

These stats apply to people of all ages, but with a new school year underway, I’d like to focus on what can be done to improve the situation for our next generation, specifically through the promotion of active transportation to and from school.

The physical activity grades are in

According to the latest ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, only about a third (35%) of Canadian children and youth are active enough to get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day, landing us the marginal grade of D+ in Overall Physical Activity.  The bad news doesn’t end there; our grade in Active Transportation is a D-, meaning that only 21% of 5-19 year olds in Canada regularly use active modes of transportation, while nearly two thirds use inactive modes, such as being dropped off by a personal vehicle or bus.

Physical activity leads to better brain health

NH Mascot, Spirit the Caribou, walking to school with Gloria Fox.We’re well aware that there are many reasons that children and youth should be active, but now we have yet another incentive to consider: brain health! Along with this year’s Report Card came an Expert Statement on Physical Activity and Brain Health in Children and Youth, stating, “For better brain health, all children and youth should be physically active on a regular basis. In addition to physical health benefits, physical activity also improves cognition, brain function and mental health.” (ParticipACTION, 2018). So, now that we know for sure that physical activity is not only good for the physical body but also the brain, it stands to reason that kids who are regularly active will be better set up for success in school.

Promoting active transportation, or people-powered transportation such as walking, cycling, or wheeling, has the potential to make a positive impact in many ways:

  • Increased daily physical activity.
  • Improved overall health.
  • Improved mood and focus.
  • Improved cognition and problem-solving skills.
  • Decreased air pollution as a result of less vehicle reliance.

This fall, consider how active school travel might work for your family or local school

  • HASTe BC (Hub for Active School Travel) has a handy online Active and Safe Routes to School Toolkit that presents nine different ideas for ways to incorporate more active transportation into daily school life; this way, you can choose the option(s) that will work best for you and your school!
  • Another option is Parachute Canada’s Walking School Bus Event Guide; it’s easy to follow and quick to implement.
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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From Prince George to Paris: how I learned to love commuting via bike

Every year around April, I start to get excited about the prospects of the snow melting and digging out my bike. For the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed biking to work and school so I always associate the spring with bike season.

I love biking for a few reasons: firstly, it’s a fantastic way to get outside and get some vitamin N (nature!), and secondly, it’s a great way to stay active and get in that crucial daily physical activity. The third reason I love biking so much, is because it takes me back to a very special time in my life. For me, the inspiration to bike to work and school started when I was living in Paris, France.

During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate to participate in a bilateral university exchange through the University of Northern British Columbia and the Paris School of Business for two semesters.

View of city of Paris from Notre-Dame.

Commuting via bike was the best way to see Paris!

Living in the City of Love opened my eyes to big city public transport and the hurried nature of city commuters. For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to rely on a vehicle for transportation and I quickly became accustomed to using the city’s metro system on a daily basis. I was able to get to where I needed to go relatively quickly and reliably without having to worry about driving (yay!), but the downside was that I was missing out on seeing the city with all the time I was spending underground commuting.

I decided to try out the Paris Velib’ system. For those who aren’t familiar, Velib’ (the name is a play on the French words vélo-bike and libre-free) is a public bicycle sharing system with an app and convenient pick up and drop off stations throughout the city. I was too nervous to try and bike to school in the mornings (my school was very strict about being late) so I decided to figure out how to bike home after school. I’m so glad I did!

Biking home after my classes became one of my favourite parts of my day. It made me feel like a local and I was able to see parts of the city that I wouldn’t have seen on the metro. I took in all the details and day-to-day scenes around me, and enjoyed being present. It was also a great way to balance all the French pastries I was indulging in!

When I returned home from Paris, I was inspired to continue commuting via bike. Although Prince George is no Paris, I realized that the north has its own unique kind of beauty. Biking through evergreen trees and being beneath blue northern skies made me fall in love with the northern BC landscape I grew up in, and made me appreciate being back home that much more.

Old red cruiser bike.

My beloved old cruiser bike and basket.

With Bike to Work and School Week approaching on May 28-June 3, 2018, I’ll be getting ready for another season of commuting. Below are some bike commuting tips I’ve learned along the way.

5 tips for a successful bike commute:

  1. Map your route. First time riding to work or school? Ease some of your anxiety about how you’re going to get there and map it out beforehand. Take note of high traffic areas and streets with no cyclist access.
  2. Test it out! Before you make your bike commuting debut, designate some time during your free time to test out your planned route. Be sure to time yourself while doing it so you have an idea of how long it will take you. The more you ride, the more consistent your commute time will become.
  3. Give yourself some extra time. I’d recommend giving yourself an extra 15-20 mins during your first couple rides until you’re comfortable. If you’re planning on changing clothes, make sure to factor in some time to change. There’s nothing worse than starting your day in catch up mode!
  4. Wear the right gear and clothing. Wearing a helmet is a must! If your route includes lots of hills you may want to consider wearing an athletic outfit and then changing into your work or school clothes afterwards. Have a shorter or less tedious route? I’ve been known to bike in dresses – I just make sure to wear shorts underneath. In the fall, I’ll wear biking leggings over top of tights for an added layer of warmth. Make sure that whatever bottoms you wear won’t catch in your gears. Nothing like chain grease to ruin an outfit! Sturdy, closed toed shoes are also a good idea. You can leave a pair of shoes to change into at your destination or toss ‘em in with your change of clothes that you’ll carry with you.
  5. Add a basket. If you’re anything like me, and love the aesthetic of a bike as much as the practicality, I highly recommend adding an accessory that makes you happy. My bike basket brings me joy, holds my lunch bag securely, and lets me incorporate a little piece of Parisienne chic into my everyday life!

Looking for more biking tips? Taylar shared some great tips for schools and families on how to get involved in biking this season, including teaching resources for road safety. Curious about how biking and wellness are connected? Check out Gloria’s blog on the benefits of biking!

To all the seasoned bike commuters in the north, happy bike season! To those who are planning on trying out commuting by bike for the first time: I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Happy biking everyone! Or as they say in Paris, bon trajet!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Four benefits of riding your bike now

Gloria cycling next to the Fraser River.

There are so many benefits to riding your bike, at any age! Why not use this year’s Bike to Work & School Week as a good time to start?!

This year’s Bike to Work & School Week runs from Monday, May 28 to Sunday, June 3. Think riding bikes is just for kids? Think again!! Riding bikes with friends may be one of your favourite childhood memories, but that “feeling of flying” doesn’t have to stop when you reach adulthood. In fact, the benefits of cycling at any age are so numerous, it really makes sense to continue this activity as much (and as late in life) as possible.

Here are some of the benefits you’ll experience by hopping on two wheels:

Health Benefits:

  • Increases your physical activity levels. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week to achieve health benefits. A bike ride or two can help make this number easy to reach and/or beat!
  • Lowers your risk of chronic disease by lowering your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.
  • Improves your focus and overall mental health.
  • Cycling is a low-impact way to get your heart pumping while taking it easy on your hips and knees – a great alternative to pounding the pavement on a run!
  • Lets you get a better rest! You sleep better when you’ve been active throughout the day.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Reduces pollution levels. Every time you choose to ride rather than drive, you are benefiting the environment and air quality. Don’t buy it? I believe the saying goes something like this: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”

Financial Benefits:

  • Getting around by bike is free! No fuel costs or parking fees.

Personal Benefits:

  • Saves you time!
    • In many cases, if you live within a reasonable distance from your destination, you will actually get there faster by bike than by vehicle.
    • No need to waste time circling in search of a parking spot!

Worried about safety? Research shows that safety increases as the number of people cycling increases!  Reasons for this include: more bikes mean fewer vehicles on the road, and drivers become more aware of the cyclists on the road simply because there are more of them! Are there safety risks to cycling? Yes, BUT the potential benefits outweigh the risks. To be better prepared to share the road, there are some great resources out there to help you brush up on your skills:

Start your cycling season off right by participating in Bike to Work & School Week May 28 to June 3, but don’t stop there! Use Bike to Work & School Week as your jumping off point and keep on riding throughout the summer to experience some (or all) of the benefits listed above. Registration is free, and if you log even one ride you’ll be entered to win the grand prize of a cycling trip for two in Portugal! You can join an existing team (I have one you can join! It’s called “Health’s Angels” and we happily accept new members OR challenges!), start your own team, or sign up as an individual.

If you have school-aged kids, register them for Bike to School Week, and check with the school to see if it is registered – get everyone on board! If your kids’ school sends us photos or stories about their Bike to School event (email: Healthy.Schools@northernhealth.ca), they could have the chance of having Spirit the Caribou visit their school during International Walk to School Month in October!

Let us know if you’ll be participating in Bike to Work & School Week this year; I hope to see you out there!

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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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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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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Routine isn’t always a bad thing!

Child playing on playground equipment.

Schedule outdoor time for children every day: The best way to encourage kids to sit less is to let them go outside.

The days are getting shorter and school doors are open, which brings homework, extracurricular activities and lots of time spent going from one place to the next in the car.

It’s a routine that we’re all used to, but an unfortunate side effect for the whole family is that more time is spent being sedentary. Although there’s often not much we can do about screen time (computer use) at school or work, there are ways to maintain those healthy summer routines into the fall and winter and keep yourself and your family moving.

At home:

  • Be a healthy role model: Set limits for your own recreational screen time as well as theirs. This includes your TVs, tablets, computers and phones.
  • Do chores together as a family that encourage getting outside: Raking leaves, shovelling snow, walking the dog, or biking to the store for milk instead of driving.
  • Schedule outdoor time for children every day: The best way to encourage kids to sit less is to let them go outside.
  • Be an active chauffeur: Don’t just sit in the car waiting on kids to finish up their activities. Use that time to get moving yourself and use active transportation when possible.

At work:

  • Build activity into your commute: Walk or bike to work when possible or carpool with a spouse or neighbour and walk from their workplace to your own.
  • Schedule movement: Set an alarm to go off every hour to remind yourself to stretch, move around, take some time away from the task, give your eyes a break and refresh your mind.
  • Take a walking meeting: Take your telephone call on the go while you stretch your legs, or encourage meeting participants to walk around the building while you talk.
  • Step up: Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Escape the lounge: Use some of your lunch break for physical activity. Get out of the lunchroom and go for a walk.
  • Go old school: Walk to a co-worker’s office to talk to them instead of calling or emailing.

Establishing active routines and spending less time being sedentary will leave you feeling happier and more alert and will improve your fitness and your social life! Making these small changes in our behaviours at home and work will over time become part of new, healthier routines.


A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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An ode to helmet hair (and biking!)

Author wearing orange glasses in the shape of a windmill.

Did my Dutch heritage inspire my cycling? Absolutely! Bikes are everywhere in the Netherlands!

When I first received the invitation to join a Bike to Work Week team, I was visiting my family in the Netherlands. There were bikes all over the place – young people biking to school, professionals biking to their offices, families biking to the grocery store, seniors biking to community spaces, friends biking to their favourite restaurants, and thousands upon thousands of people biking to train stations. Inspired in part by all of these active commuters and my Dutch heritage, I decided to join a Bike to Work Week team.

Now, after a really fun and eye-opening week, I’m considering adding a new activity to my routine: biking to work!

I loved the chance to dip my toes into the water when it comes to biking to work. I think that I’m ready to take the plunge!

Map of bike route.

Don’t let distance keep you down! Drive part of the way to your work site and then find yourself a nice, manageable route to start and end your day.

Here’s what I learned this week:

  1. Biking to work is a great way to get my (minimum) 150 minutes of physical activity as per the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. My route took 10-15 minutes. Multiply that by 2 (it’s a return trip, after all!) and a week’s worth of bike trips brought me to 100-150 minutes of physical activity!
  2. Biking to work is quicker than I thought! Or maybe the issue is that driving isn’t quite as fast as I thought it was? I was surprised that I didn’t have to get up much earlier than usual (maybe 10 minutes to give myself a cushion) and didn’t get home noticeably later than driving days.
  3. Co-workers and others embrace (or don’t notice or remark on!) helmet hair!
  4. Hills can be tough, but people are very impressed when you tell them that your route includes a hill! Their oohs and aahs – along with my sense of achievement – more than make up for the sweaty brow at the top!
  5. Walking your bike up hills is allowed, of course!
  6. Don’t let distance keep you down! On some days, my commute is over an hour as I travel from Vanderhoof to Prince George. 100 km is admittedly a little far for a daily bike commute but I realized that just because I’m in my car, doesn’t mean I have to stay there! I threw my bike into the car, parked 5-10 km from the office, and got to enjoy a 15-minute bike ride to start and end my day! The same might apply for you! Do you live out of town? Drive in and bike the last few kilometres. Live on top of a hill? Drive to the bottom and start your bike ride from there!

So, what do you say? Will I see you on your bike this year?

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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6 tips to stay safe while biking to work

Two cyclists with bikes and helmets in front of workplace.

Biking to work is a great way to be active every day and reach the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that adults need every week. Follow a few safety tips to ensure that your commute is both fun and safe! Are you biking to work this spring and summer?

It’s Bike to Work Week all over northern B.C. and I’ve had a great time logging my trips as part of a team of cycling commuters from Northern Health!

It’s also been an eye-opening experience to see how easy and accessible cycling to work can be! To think that I’m staying active, reducing my environmental footprint, and arriving at work and at home energized without significantly adding to my commuting time is amazing! I’m thinking that this may continue well beyond just this week!

To help me and my fellow riders stay safe this week and into the summer, I chatted with Shellie O’Brien, a regional injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health. Cycling is the leading cause of sports-related injury so to make sure that I can take part in this great activity as safely as possible, Shellie provided some great safety tips!

Why is safe cycling important?

When done safely, cycling is a great way to get active and decrease environmental emissions. Following safe cycling practices, such as wearing a helmet and having a properly adjusted bike, means you and your kids can be safe on the road.

What can drivers do to keep cyclists safe?

Drivers should actively watch for cyclists – including shoulder checking before turning right and watching for oncoming cyclists when making left turns. Remember to always scan for cyclists when you’re pulling onto a road, like from a driveway or parking lot.

When you’ve parked, remember that opening your door can be a hazard. Watch for cyclists before you or your passengers open a door.

Bike to Work Week has great tips for drivers.

How can cyclists like me stay safe?

  1. Protect your head – wear a helmet. A properly-fitted and correctly-worn bike helmet can make a dramatic difference, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 85%. When fitting a helmet, use the 2V1 rule: 2 fingers distance from helmet to brow, V-shape around both ears, and 1 finger between chin and strap.
  2. Maintain your bike. Ensure it is adjusted to the recommended height for the rider, tires are inflated and brakes are working properly. The beginning of the cycling season is a good time to tune up your bike.
  3. Know the rules of the road. Use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signs. Always ride on the right side of the road, the same direction that traffic is going and stay as far right as possible.
  4. Use designated areas for riding when available. If designated areas aren’t available, choose to ride on streets where the speed limit is lower and where traffic is less busy.
  5. Be seen and heard. Wear bright reflective clothing. Ride in well-lit areas and use bike reflectors and lights if you’re planning to ride in low light areas. Ensure your bike is equipped with a bell to announce when passing, if not, use your voice!
  6. Be a role model. Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. The best way to do this is to role model the behaviours.
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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International Walk to School Week (iWalk): put on those backpacks and walk!

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

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

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

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

Why should this matter to you? Did you know:

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

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

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

What is your family planning for iWalk?

For more info on iWalk check out:

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

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

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

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

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Biking to work between islands

Biking to work

Heather, on the ferry from Sandspit, during her daily bike ride to work.

When I was asked to contribute to the NH blog, I actually accepted the invitation before I knew what I was going to write. Encouraging health in the workplace? How can we add health in the workplace? How is  ‘health’ defined by each of us? Healthy eating? Exercise? How do I incorporate healthy in my workday?

Well, I work in Queen Charlotte City but live in Sandspit. That means my commute consists of 12km to the ferry terminal, a 30-minute ferry ride and another 5km to the hospital in Queen Charlotte. I could drive or bike. I made the choice to bike to work for two reasons. First, it would save me cash by walking onto the ferry versus driving and secondly, I could add some movement into my day before and after each work day.

Here’s a typical day, riding my bike to work:

I reach for my alarm, turn it off, roll over and open my eyes. September is  not quite as bright in the morning as in July, but there’s still light streaming into my bedroom from the rising sun. I put my biking outfit on, make some coffee, grab my pre-made lunch  and pack my backpack. I make my favorite breakfast smoothie and toss it too into my pack. It’s 7:15 am. I walk to the end of my driveway with my ride. My morning commute has started. I start to peddle the 12km. The road is quiet and to my right for 12km is the ocean. The water is Caribbean blue, calm and the beach is empty and peaceful. Throughout the summer I was fortunate to witness various berries changing colours, the day-old fawns playing, whales around Onward Point and river otters crossing the road before the other morning traffic. On the mighty Kwuna, I enjoy my coffee and morning chat with friends all while watching seagulls and porpoises pass by. The ferry docks at the Skidegate Terminal and I continue my ride into Queen Charlotte with sunshine warming my back and highlighting Sleeping Beauty Mountain in front of me. When I reach my destination I feel energized and happy to be there. I get to do the reverse at the end of the day.

Biking to work is just one way that I incorporate ‘health’ into my workday. How do you?

Heather Brule

About Heather Brule

Heather lives, works and plays on Haida Gwaii. She has worked for Northern Health since 2012 in the Rehabilitation department as a therapy aide. At work, she assists the physical therapist as well as works with the long-term care residents to provide various forms of recreation. She's active in the community and enjoys teaching various fitness classes over the past few years. In her spare time she can be found running, hiking, biking, crafting, reading, diving and enjoying the ocean via fishing, surfing and paddle boarding. (Heather no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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