Healthy Living in the North

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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Clean Air Day 2014

clouds, sky, sunny day

Celebrate Clean Air All Year Long

This year, we celebrate Clean Air Day on Wednesday, June 4. Clean Air Day is a great opportunity to reflect on our individual, community and regional contributions to air quality, and to consider all that we can do to reduce our impact – individually and collectively. Despite the image of British Columbia as a vast, wild and natural place, we celebrate our clean air only one day a year.

Perhaps we take for granted that we can breathe easy, especially in the north with our wide open spaces and vast oxygen-producing forests. However, clean air is not something to take for granted. In fact, breathing is anything but easy for thousands of British Columbians. Poor air quality can worsen a pre-existing health issue such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or a heart condition. This means that those who are already at-risk are those who will be most affected. Did you know that asthma is the cause of the highest number of emergency visits in children?

Each region has unique features that affect local air quality.  The impact is specifically dependent on local weather patterns, geography, and types of emissions. For example, a windier location will have fewer air quality issues than one that experiences less air movement. However, some types of pollution are harmful even at low levels (specifically one called “particulate matter 2.5”). This type of pollution comes from sources such as vehicle emissions, wood-burning appliances, and burning fossil fuels.

So many of our everyday activities contribute to this problem, but the good news is that everyone has a role to play in the solution – both as individuals and collectively. For example, if we use wood heat, burning only dry, seasoned firewood can dramatically reduce the pollution from our homes. We can also reduce vehicle emissions by walking, cycling or using public transit. Small changes can have a huge impact on our local air quality – especially at certain times of the year!

For more information, visit northernhealth.ca.

Kim Menounos

About Kim Menounos

Kim is a healthy community environments lead, in public health protection, responsible for education and awareness of radon gas. She joined Northern Health in January 2011, and still feels like a newbie! Kim is a slow, but enthusiastic trail runner, and happiest when outdoors with her boys (husband, children AND dog). (Kim no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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