Healthy Living in the North

Active for what?

Family playing soccer outdoors.

We know that we need to be physically active, but how active and for how long? For adults, the guideline to follow is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.

We all know that physical activity has many health benefits – but are we getting enough and how much do we actually need to achieve these health benefits?

Incorporating regular physical activity into our daily routines reduces the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Other benefits include:

  • decrease your risk of high blood pressure
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • increase your mental well-being

Active people are also more productive, sick less often, and at less risk for injury. Basically, becoming more active will improve your overall health, well-being, and quality of life.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology released the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines in 2011, in an effort to help Canadians become healthier and more active. The guidelines outline the amount and types of physical activity by different age groups that are required to achieve health benefits.

For adults aged 18-64 years, the goal is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, in intervals of at least 10 minutes or more. The guidelines also recommend adding muscle and bone strengthening activities that use major muscle groups, at least two days per week.

Moderate-intensity activities are those activities that will cause us to sweat a little and breathe harder. These include things like brisk walking and bike riding. Vigorous-intensity activities should cause us to sweat more and be “out of breath.” Activities like jogging, swimming, or cross-country skiing are considered vigorous-intensity and can be included as your endurance and fitness levels increase.

Does 150 minutes of physical activity per week sound overwhelming?
Breaking down the 150 minutes to 30 minutes per day, five days per week may sound more enticing and achievable for some people. In a very motivating visual lecture titled 23 and ½ Hours, Dr. Mike Evans discusses how 30 minutes of physical activity per day is the “single best thing we can do for our health.” If you have not seen the video, it is definitely worth checking out!

For many people who have never led an active lifestyle or played sports, becoming more physically active may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Start slow and gradually increase your daily physical activity to meet the guidelines. Move more and sit less throughout the day – remember, every move counts! Being active with co-workers, friends, and family is a great way to achieve your physical activity goals while having fun.

Resources to get you started:

  • The Physical Activity Line: British Columbia’s primary physical activity counselling service and free resource for practical and trusted physical activity information.
  • Healthy Families BC: A provincial strategy aimed at improving the health and well-being of British Columbians at every stage of life. The site contains great resources and information for health and wellness.
  • ParticipACTION: The national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. Through social marketing and collaborative partnerships, they inspire and support Canadians to live healthy, active lives. Great information and programs available!

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

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.


Your health HQ

A thumbs up in front of the health link BC website

A thumbs up for HealthLink BC.

Please tell me I am not the only one to ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of health information out there! A Google search for “health tips” will yield well over one million results in a quarter of a second. It doesn’t matter how good you are at making sense of information, even the savviest of researchers can be stunned.

Even for a healthy individual without a clinical diagnosis of disease, the situation can be confusing. For example, some of the things I wonder about:

  • How many servings of dark green vegetables should I get each day?
  • How many hours of sleep am I supposed to get?
  • Should I get a flu shot?
  • Is it better to walk 10 minutes each day, or 20 minutes every other day?

In one of my previous jobs, I worked with cancer survivors and learned about their experiences in northern BC. One of the interesting things that I took away from that job is that people care about finding quality information. That is, information that is trusted and true; people value information from a reliable source.

Have you ever heard of HealthLink BC? While it may not be as sexy as the cover model on the front of the magazine at the checkout stand, it is written by experts who live and work in your province and it’s developed with you in mind.

HealthLink BC is a free resource to all British Columbians where you can find any and all non-emergency health-related information. You can search healthy lifestyle tips, medications, and diseases and their symptoms. All information is medically-approved, so it can be trusted.

HealthLink BC is accessible. They have a user-friendly website and you can talk to a registered nurse (a real person!) on the phone any time of the day or night by calling 8-1-1. Translation services are available for more than 130 languages. They even have an app!

But, 8-1-1 is more than just nurses! When you first call, you will talk to a Health Service Representative. This person will talk to you about what you are looking for and get you in touch with the right people.

  • Pharmacists – talk about your medications (available every night, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
  • Dietitians – talk about healthy eating and nutrition (available Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Nurses – talk about symptoms, procedures, or whether you should go to the doctor for your inquiry (available all day, every day of the year!)

You can even call any time of the day or night to learn where the closest health services to you are, including walk-in clinics, travel clinics, and immunizations.

Bonus tip: Did you know that you can talk to an exercise specialist for free by calling the Physical Activity Line? By talking to them, you can get physical activity guidance tailored to your needs and lifestyle. Their number is 1-877-725-1149. They are available Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

I can hear that little voice in your head saying, “It’s great to know that these resources are there, but I’m not going to call them.” Why not?! I challenge you to pick up that phone and to call a nurse next time you are Googling a symptom. Chances are you will get better, more accurate information than using “Dr. Google.”

Have you ever been overwhelmed by health information? Do you think this resource might help you?

Win a $300 GC to help support your healthy habits in 2014!

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.


Physical Activity Line – your PAL in healthy living

Physical Activity Line

PAL – the Physical Activity Line (

The acronym PAL has so many positive connotations. What instantly comes to mind is “a really great friend.” A good buddy. A kindred spirit. Who knew that PAL actually stands for Physical Activity Line and is an important provincial resource to support increased physical activity? So I sent some questions off to my good buddy who works at the PAL, and here is what she told me:

What is the provincial PAL? What services or resources does it offer?

The Physical Activity Line (PAL) is your FREE resource for practical and trusted physical activity and healthy living information. The PAL provides a range of services to the public including:

  • Providing guidance to help you become more physically active, overcome your barriers and stay motivated.
  • Educating you with the most up-to-date, trusted physical activity and health information.
  • Connecting you with health professionals and community health and fitness programs.

Who will PAL support? Worksites, schools, homes?

In addition to the public, the PAL supports an integrated approach to improving health through collaboration with health professionals, programs and organizations, such as workplaces. The PAL can provide evidence-based physical activity resources to assist your practice or program, as well as, assist you to find suitable programs for your clients/patients.

What should I expect when I call PAL? What is the process?

When you contact the PAL, you will speak with a qualified exercise professional and together, we will determine which service(s) is appropriate for you. The qualified exercise professional may ask you some questions related to your health in order to provide you with individual and safe physical activity advice and/or with information on suitable health and fitness programs in your community. It’s up to you to decide what personal information you give us, and you will not need to provide your name or contact information unless you would like us to send you information by email or mail.

How does PAL support workplace wellness?  What is the Wellness Fits initiative?

The PAL can provide resources to assist with building and maintain workplace wellness. The Wellness Fits initiative is a FREE workplace wellness program from Healthy Families BC and the Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon. The program provides information for workplaces on important health practices (e.g., physical activity, healthy eating, smoking cessation, and mental health), tools to help employees take action, and supports employers in creating healthy workplaces. For additional information on the Wellness Fits initiative, refer to or contact 1-855-939-WELL (9355).

How can I promote PAL to my co-workers, families and friends?

You can promote the PAL to co-workers, families and friends by word-of-mouth, providing them with the PAL website (, telephone number (1-877-725-1149), and requesting PAL information that you can share with them.

What does the website offer? Why would I visit?

The website provides information on the PAL such as what it is, what services it offers and how to contact it. The website is helpful for the public, health professionals and organizations as it contains resources, called Fact Sheets, on various physical activity related topics and information on other FREE telehealth services available to BC residents.

Kelsey Yarmish

About Kelsey Yarmish

Kelsey is the regional manager of Northern Health’s population health team. A nurse by background, with past work in acute psychiatry (at UHNBC) and tertiary mental health and addiction services, Kelsey has become equally passionate about public health prevention initiatives and upstream work. Kelsey grew up in Prince George, and loves being part of the community and the north. She is married, with two little "dancing" girls. Family is her joy and her kids ensure that home-time is always lively and a lot of fun! When she is not at work, she is with her family and friends, and she loves entertaining, her gardens, traveling, boating, crafting, cooking and reading.