Healthy Living in the North

“Our solution was the boardwalk”: How a local hiking group provided everyone with the opportunity to enjoy a natural wonder

Man carrying plank

Volunteer Mitch Olineck carries a boardwalk plank.

One of the things that northern B.C. residents commonly appreciate about living in this area is our close proximity and easy access to nature and outdoor activities, like skiing, camping and hiking.

Unfortunately, this “easy access” doesn’t always extend to everyone and truly experiencing nature can be a difficult, even impossible, task for some. This is why the Prince George hiking club, the Caledonia Ramblers, undertook the ambitious project of building a universal boardwalk for the Ancient Forest, a popular trail system 113 km east of Prince George that features huge ancient cedar trees that are protected as part of B.C.’s rare inland rainforest.

“There has to be an equal playing field for all our citizens,” said Nowell Senior, Caledonia Ramblers President, “so all citizens have an opportunity to live a wholesome, inclusive life.”

Senior has been president of the hiking club for eight years and was a member for 10 years before that. He has seen the boardwalk, as well as the original Ancient Forest trail, come alive from initial idea through to extensive planning and final development.

Four hikers at trail entrance.

Hikers (from left to right) Nowell Senior, Gwen and Bjorn Norheim, and Don Austin at the entrance to the universal boardwalk.

The idea for the Ancient Forest nature loop trail was conjured up 10 years ago and was built in a six week period over the summer of 2006. The Ramblers knew the area was beautiful, with its unique stands of large, ancient cedar, but Senior and the hiking club never anticipated just how popular it would become.

“Each year, more and more people were coming out to the nature trail,” said Senior. “When we realized just how popular the Ancient Forest trail had become, we were aware of those in our community who could not have that experience, and our solution was the boardwalk.”

So, in 2010, the club began exploring the idea of the universal boardwalk and approached local and provincial sponsors. The response was “completely supportive and positive,” said Senior. The 450 metre boardwalk that would provide full access to the Ancient Forest would become a reality.

The project came to fruition thanks to the contributions of many generous sponsors and 200 volunteers. The volunteers helped to build and even carried a total of 60 tons of lumber (by hand!) from the parking lot to the furthest point of the eventual boardwalk (in order to have it safely tucked away after delivery).

Four seasons and 6,500 volunteer hours later, the universal boardwalk was completed in the fall of 2013. It is now a separate trail – fully wheelchair accessible with rest areas and benches along the way – that goes to a viewing platform above a stream and provides a lovely view of the cedars. In 2015, the Ancient Forest welcomed over 15,000 visitors, and the boardwalk was renamed the Nowell Senior Universal Boardwalk to recognize his amazing contribution and dedication to the project.

“I think that going out to nature, we get reacquainted with the natural part of our world,” said Senior, on the importance of being active outdoors. “We’re natural beings that depend on nature. We can sometimes become separated from it, and as a result we’re not living as wholesome a life as we could.”

Senior encourages others to look at their communities and find ways to improve their accessibility, whether it’s providing better access to a park or creating a better mobility trail. His advice to get started: “Form a group of like-minded people who feel the same way… Put the idea out to organizations and entities that could be helpful in promoting such a venture.”

Now, Senior says the Ramblers are going forward with more awareness of the need for inclusivity. “I would hope the enthusiasm with which the Caledonia Ramblers have approached providing full access to nature would be contagious and effect more groups to become involved in that work.”


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Do you want to build a snowman?

Two snowmen

With all of the rolling, lifting, and moving around in the snow that is required, building a snowman is a great way to stay active! How will you keeping moving this winter?

If you have children or have watched television in the past year, chances are you have heard this song. The song from Disney’s hit movie Frozen has been very popular with both children and adults and is quite a catchy tune. Listening to it recently made me think of how fortunate we are to have an abundance of activities at our doorstep to enjoy during the winter months.

Choosing to be more physically active and decreasing our sedentary behaviours is definitely beneficial for our bodies, as an active lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Being active also enhances our mental health and well-being, which can be really helpful during this season when days are shorter and darker. Aim to choose activities that you enjoy – if you like it, you’re more likely to do it!

Some examples of winter activities to experience in northern B.C.:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Walking
  • Tobogganing
  • Snowboarding
  • Ice fishing
  • Alpine skiing
  • Skating
  • Building a snowman

Whatever winter activities you choose to take part in, ensure that you stay safe to prevent injury. Wear a helmet when skating or skiing, wear ice-grippers when walking, and wear reflective clothing if you are outside in the morning or after dark. Choose activities that are fun and that you enjoy. Don’t forget to bring along your family and friends to join you on a road to better health!


This article was originally published in A Healthier You magazine. The newest issue of our healthy living magazine is now available online!

 

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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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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For a great full-body workout, try Nordic walking – and choose your training partners with care!

Two walkers standing with Nordic walking poles

Nordic walking targets your lower body and, because of the poles, also strengthens your arms, shoulders, and core.

Are you looking to up your walking game? I recommend immediately adding some injured marathoners to your roster of training buddies.

When selecting your injured marathoners, insist on the following two qualities (one physical, one mental):

  1. Physical: Must not be able to run; must only be able to walk
  2. Mental/emotional: Must be so frustrated by (1) that they walk extremely fast, pushing you to your limits

Note: Triathletes will also work, in a pinch.

I was recently lucky enough to acquire two such training buddies: Joanne Morgan, who’s recovering from a hip injury, and Annie Horning, who currently has knee issues.

Both qualified for the Boston and New York marathons this year. Joanne has also competed in the X-Terra World Championships, and as well as running Boston, Annie recently won her age group at the Fort Langley Marathon. Just being on the same trail with these two cardio powerhouses is truly humbling.

My lucky husband Andrew trains with them regularly and refers to them as “JoAnnie.” I call them his crew of elite personal trainers.

I recently joined Andrew and the crew for my first Nordic walking workout on the beautiful wooded biking/running trails at Otway (the Caledonia Nordic Centre) near Prince George.

Nordic walking is just like regular walking, except you use these special poles. (You could use cross-country ski poles, but they’ll probably be slightly too long. You need the special poles, which are adjustable to the perfect height for you. They also telescope down so you can easily carry them in your pack/car.)

Q: Does Nordic walking look slightly dorky?

A: Yes.

Q: Is the dorkiness factor (DF™) worth it because of the increased push you get from the poles, plus the great upper-body workout?

A: Yes.

Two Nordic walkers on an outdoor trail

Take your walking to the next level and give Nordic walking a shot along the beautiful trails in your community this summer.

In fact, SportMedBC refers to Nordic walking as “Canada’s hottest new fitness trend”:

If you like walking, you’ll love the fun and health benefits of Nordic Walking! Increasing numbers of people are enjoying this user-friendly sport that combines the aerobic and strength-building benefits of cross-country skiing with the convenience of walking. It has been popular in Scandinavia for over 20 years (maybe this is the true secret why the Swedes look and feel so good!).

I can certainly agree – with Annie, Joanne, and Andrew scorching their way up and down Otway’s steep hills, I was pushed to my limits and had a great 5k workout.

It targeted both lower body (walking, plus frequent desperate scurrying to keep up) and arms/shoulders/core (pushing with the poles). Plus, it was low impact and therefore easy on the joints.

As well as taking some of the weight off injured hips and knees (should you possess these), using the poles stretches hip flexors and calves, and helps prepare your upper body for ski season. The poles also help you balance, and for me, prevented several stumbles over roots.

If you’d like to take your walking to the next level, give Nordic walking a try. (But you’ll have to find your own injured marathoners – Joanne and Annie are taken!)

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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Spring into activity – injury-free!

Young boy wearing a life-jacket and fishing off of dock.

Make sure that your favourite spring and summer activities are enjoyed safely so that you can have fun all season long!

Spring is in the air! Lakes are thawing, bulbs are blooming, and leaves are sprouting! After a long but mild winter, it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy your favourite spring activity!

While physical activity is an important part of our health, as well as our growth and development, we recognize that there are risks involved – as there are in all parts of life. While not all risks can be eliminated, most can be managed.

Everybody has thoughts and ideas about risk and protective factors and what they believe is the right balance to keep their activity both fun and safe. For example, when you leave the house to go for a walk and cross the road, you are taking a risk. But, if you look both ways, make eye contact with drivers, and wear bright clothing, you minimize that risk while still enjoying your walk!

What are your thoughts around risk taking? Do you manage risks in your daily activities in a way that keeps those activities fun while including the appropriate safety measures? What precautions do you take to ensure you can get back to the same activity with the same ability again and again? Remember to aim for a healthy balance, avoid the bubble wrap and when you take risks, take smart ones!

Did you know that we sustain more injuries during the spring and summer months? Why might that be?

  • There are more vulnerable road users out and about such as bicyclists and motorcyclists, dog walkers, runners, and skateboarders.
  • Off-road vehicle use increases with warmer weather. In northern B.C., we actually have the highest rates of ATV injuries in the province.
  • There is more access to open water for swimming, fishing, and boating – all of which come with a drowning risk.
  • There is an increase in outdoor sports where we see more musculoskeletal injuries and concussion.
Young boy wearing helmet on BMX bike.

Shellie’s tips for safe spring and summer activities are simple but effective: look first, wear the gear, get trained, buckle up, and drive sober. Whether you’re on a boat, a bike, a car, a dock, a street, a hill, or enjoying any other Northern activity, these tips will help you stay active and injury-free!

Here are some simple but effective tips to stay fit and injury-free so you can enjoy the activities you love all spring and summer long – and for many seasons to come!

  • Look first: Stop, think and check out the situation before you act. Watch for vulnerable road users. Stop, think, and assess before crossing the street, before skiing down a hill, before climbing a ladder. Understand the risks of an activity and make a plan to manage them.
  • Wear the gear: When there is protective gear for an activity, wear it. It will save a life. Your seatbelt, your helmet, your life-jacket – wear the gear!
  • Get trained: Learn how to assess the risks of an activity, decide which ones are worth taking, and develop skills to manage those risks. ATV safety training, swimming lessons and driver education are all examples of getting trained.
  • Buckle up: Have the rule that everyone buckles up properly every time, no matter how short the trip. Remember to buckle up life-jackets and helmets, too!
  • Drive sober: Be fully in control of your mind and body when behind the wheel of any kind of vehicle, whether car, ATV, boat or bicycle. Operate these vehicles without the impairment of alcohol, drugs, fatigue or distractions of any kind.
Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

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From snowboard to toboggan – have fun, protect your noggin!

Two snowboarders with helmets and goggles

From spring skiing to slippery sidewalks, just because the snow is melting and the weather is warming doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about slips, falls, and concussion risks!

From snowboarding to skating, biathlon to snowmobiling, cross-country skiing to snowshoeing, or curling to tobogganing – you name the winter sport and we got it! Being active and participating in sports and outdoor activities during winter is a fantastic way to stay healthy and happy. Whether you are a weekend enthusiast or you’ve been inspired by the Canada Winter Games athletes to try out a new sport, learn how to keep winter play fun, safe and injury-free.

Concussions have often been dismissed as “getting your bell rung,” a time to just shake it off and get back at it! However, in reality, a concussion is a brain injury that can cause a number of symptoms affecting the way you think or act. A repeat concussion that occurs while your brain is still healing from a previous concussion can cause long-term problems that may change your life forever.

How a concussion is handled in the minutes, hours and days following the injury can significantly influence the extent of damage and recovery time. Protect yourself and your loved ones:

Learn how to recognize a concussion

  • Any force that causes the brain to move around in the skull can cause a concussion.
  • Signs of a concussion may not appear immediately.
  • Most concussions do not include a loss of consciousness.
  • When in doubt, sit out! Take the time your brain needs to heal.

Know what to do if you suspect a concussion

  • Assess the individual for any visible cues, signs or symptoms like imbalance, memory loss, and changes in the way they appear to be thinking, feeling or acting.
  • Get medical help – any possible concussion should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Know how to manage a concussion

  • Rest is the best way to recover from a concussion – both physical and mental.
  • Follow the guidelines for Return to Learn and Return to Play to help achieve full recovery (available at cattonline.com).

Spread the word!

  • Injuries are preventable. Tell others to help build awareness and understanding about preventing and managing concussion where you live, work, learn and play. Together we can make northern B.C. injury-free.

Visit cattonline.com for up-to-date and free concussion information, training and resources for parents, players, coaches, medical professionals and educators.


This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

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