Healthy Living in the North

Being a little more active

Four adults walking and jogging on a running track

How can you build 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity into your week?

For most of us, being a little more active is something that would bring benefits.

I don’t know about you, but it seems far too easy for me to be able to find some reason not to do my recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This is recommended for all adults, myself included, who are somewhere between 18 and 64 years of age. Well, at least I’m on some part of that spectrum – LOL!

One would think that doing 15 episodes of moderate to vigorous activity in ten minute periods should be easy. It’s easier than you think, but you may need to change your expectations and what you define as “activity.”

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines tell us to mix up moderate and vigorous intensity activities while also adding in muscle and bone strengthening:

  • Moderate-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat a little and to breathe harder. This includes activities like riding a bike or walking at a pace.
  • Vigorous-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat and be “out of breath.” This includes activities like jogging or cross country skiing.
  • Muscle / bone-strengthening activities help to build strength and balance. This includes activities like yoga or working with weights.

Here’s the link to the different guidelines for all ages. There are also very good suggestions for achieving your goals.

Baseball diamond.

What facilities exist in your community to support you to be more active?

So why does it feel so difficult to keep the activity going?

I think life continually gets in the way and while we’re motivated at some periods, there are always competing interests for our time and so it becomes easy to fall out of if it isn’t a part of our routines.

If you build it into your life, health will come!

Looking at the guidelines, it seems that if we try to do things that we are doing anyways in a more vigorous manner, then we might very well be able to meet our goal without having to change much. Vigorously rake the leaves. Take the stairs. Go for a walk at lunch time (even around the worksite or office if need be). Do the housework with gusto. Whatever helps! Perhaps even keep a record of it for a while and set some goals for yourself.

If you can, build some of those more structured activities into your routines, too. Try something new!

It will seem like work until it seems like life. Therefore, make your life the work you need to do for your health and become as active as you can in this moment.

Good luck and keep trying!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


“How much, how often, and when?” A drinker asks some questions

Bottle of wine, wine glass, calendar, and clock on a counter

How much, how often, and when are all important questions to ask when considering alcohol use.

The holiday season is fast approaching. In November and December, many people tend to drink alcohol more often, culminating in what is possibly the biggest potential drinking event of all for many people: New Year’s Eve. Often, at some point during this season, people ask themselves, “Do I drink too much?” It’s a good question and it is one that all people who drink should ask from time to time. There are problems with this question, though: How much is too much? Is it only the amount we drink that matters? Let’s consider three questions that I think might be good to ask ourselves:

  • How much?
  • How often?
  • When?

These three questions can help us to recognize the issues and problems related to drinking. Asking them can also help us to gain insight into ourselves and into the culture of our communities. They may lead to other important questions as well.

How much?

How much alcohol a person uses is important. People are different and what may be safe or low-risk use for one person may not be safe or low-risk for another. There is no fixed amount that is safe for everyone so it’s good to know how much you drink. It is also useful to reflect on changes in how much you have had to drink over time. Are you drinking more than you used to? What accounts for that change?

How often?

How often a person drinks is important as well. A person may not drink a lot but if they drink often, then the effects of their use may become a problem. Do you drink more often than you used to? What effect is that having on you? What effect is that having on your relationships and on those around you?


When a person drinks is another important consideration. Asking this question can give some insight into the role that alcohol has in a person’s life. Asking “when?” can highlight what drives a person to drink and can be an indicator of potential problems. Do you drink in social situations? Do you drink when you are stressed? Do you drink to cope?

Canada has endorsed a set of Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. These guidelines are a good start when considering your answers to the questions I asked above. Getting to know yourself and understanding your relationship with alcohol are further steps toward building a better, healthier life.

For more information about low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines, I suggest the following resources:

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.


Announcing the September Healthy Living Challenge

Chapman vs Bowering

Dr. Chapman (on the right) as he faced off with Dr. Bowering (left) in the March MANness competition.

Northern health matters to us, and it should matter to you too. This is why, over the month of September, we want to challenge YOU to live a healthier life.

Over the past year, members of the Northern Health team have started work on developing a series of guidelines (called position papers) on key issues that affect people’s health, including physical activity, healthy eating, injury prevention, tobacco, and obesity. It’s our goal to help share our knowledge of these health issues and work toward improving the overall health of northerners.

To help bring the ideas and evidence from our position guidelines to life, we would like to issue the September Healthy Living Challenge to our staff and communities. Over the next month, we will be posting a series of stories, reflections, and challenges on the Northern Health Matters blog to encourage everyone to consider how we can make healthier choices during the day, every day. I encourage everyone to follow along with the challenges and contests, and to submit their stories and pictures about how they live a healthy and active life.

Who doesn’t like a good challenge? You may remember that I know what it means to be challenged. This past spring, Dr. Bowering and I went head-to-head in a series of physical activities in the March MANness Competition. Healthy living doesn’t need to be difficult. For example, find ways to make every move count and do activities that work for your lifestyle. Go for a walk, take your kids to the park, dust off your bicycle, or use some of the great facilities that our northern communities have to offer, such as community pools. I encourage everyone to go to visit the Northern Health Matters blog regularly to participate in our September Healthy Living Challenge.

Find out how you can become a part of this exciting opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle in the north – visit our September Healthy Living Challenge page now! And be sure to come back tomorrow, when the first challenge and contest will be announced!

Dr. Ronald Chapman

About Dr. Ronald Chapman

Ronald Chapman is a physician with a fellowship in community medicine, and extensive experience in the leadership and management of health services with a focus on community health. Dr. Chapman joined the Northern Health team in 2007 as regional director of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy. Dr. Chapman assumed the role of the chief medical health officer of Northern Health in June 2011, and in February 2013, he transitioned to Vice President, Medicine in Northern Health.