Healthy Living in the North

Meet our Northern biking champions: Anna from Mackenzie

A woman standing astride her bike on the side of the road. The bike is towing a child trailer with a child wearing a helmet sitting side.

Anna is sporting her studded winter bike tires and chariot, which help her and her daughter get around town safely.

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Anna Kandola, a Dietitian and Kinesiologist in Mackenzie.

Why do you bike to work and what do you like most about it?

We decided it would be a good option instead of having a second car – better for health, finances and the environment. It wakes me up and gives me more energy through the day to have had a bit of activity in the morning!

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work OR school?

More bike racks available in the winter.

Any biking tips you’d like to share?

I have studded tires for winter riding which seem to help a lot. The chariot makes it so we can transport our daughter easily, so I can’t use her as an excuse not to bike.

***

A big thank you to Anna for sharing some ideas on how to make biking an easier option year-round!

Are you a winter cyclist? Please share your tips and tricks with us for staying safe, warm, and dry on two wheels!

 

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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Mattie from Mackenzie

A young girl, wearing a black and pink hoodie, poses with her red bike and helmet.

Mattie would like to thank her mom for lending out her bike until Mattie can get a new one…”Thanks, Mom!”

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Mattie Ludvigson, a grade 7 student at Mackenzie Secondary School.

Why do you bike to school?

I used to walk because I lived so close to the elementary school. Now that I go to the high school, I bike because it’s a bit further away, and biking takes less time. Plus, I know some short cuts!!

What do you like most about biking?

I like that I can meet up with friends and bike with them!

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work or school?

Something to encourage them more (both adults and kids)… maybe a reward of some type given out randomly?!

Any bike tips you’d like to share?

The best place to ride your bike is when you are out camping… you must ALWAYS remember to pack your bike… then go make your own trails!

***

Thanks, Mattie, for sharing your reasons and motivation for riding your bike!

What kind of incentives do you think would work to get more people riding in your community? We’d love to hear from you!

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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Esther from Mackenzie!

Two youth posing with their bikes.

Esther says that “biking is a healthy activity…it’s good for ALL of your body,” and her friend & biking buddy Charlotte agrees!

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2, 2019), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Esther McIntyre, a grade 6 student at Morfee Elementary.

Why do you bike to school and what do you like best about biking?

It’s the fastest way to get to school! I think it’s a safer form of transportation than driving (beyond the fact that I’m in grade 6 and can’t drive!). Visibility is better – both people being able to see YOU biking with your helmet on, and you can see everything that’s going on around you when you are biking, more than you would see in a car.

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work OR school?

We could use a few more bike racks in town, and some more sidewalks for the young bikers to bike on safely.

What type of bike do you ride?

My mom’s as I grew out of mine. I’d like to get a mountain bike.

Any biking tips you’d like to share?

An important thing for safe biking is to be aware of your strengths and limitations, and it’s good to know what gears you feel comfortable riding in.

***

A big thank you to Esther for sharing some really helpful insights, and a shout out to Moe Hopkins, NH Support Worker, for connecting with Esther!

If you haven’t participated in Bike to Work & School Week before, why not make this your year? We’d love to hear about your experiences riding in your home community.

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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Meet our Northern biking champions: Barb from Mackenzie!

Barb Paterson, smiling in a yellow reflective biking jacket, and riding a bike.

Barb is a champion for students by assisting with the Bike to School events at Morfee Elementary School. Learn more about bike to school and work week at www.biketowork.ca

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we will be featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Barb Paterson, a retired nurse from Mackenzie.

Why do you ride?

I love to bike. I am retired but have always liked biking, so I try to bike as often as I can. I like biking because I love how you can go anywhere, and I like the exercise.

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work OR school?

We just need to keep working with the GoByBike [Society] and grow the profile of biking in town. It seems to be increasing the number of kids on bicycles in Mackenzie!

What do you ride?

I ride a custom built Santa Cruz that Phil Evanson in Prince George creatively built by mixing and matching bike parts and components. I love it. He rounded up everything I wanted in a bike and put it together for me.

Any biking tips you’d like to share?

It amazes me how often I see parents cycling with their children, where the kids have helmets on but not the adults! Parents: protect YOUR brains too and set a good example for your children by wearing your helmet when you’re biking!

***

Shout out to Moe Hopkins, NH Support Worker & Community Champion herself, for seeking out and interviewing Barb!

It’s not too late to participate in Bike to Work & School week – register now and log at least one ride to be eligible to win the grand prize of a cycling adventure for two in Italy!

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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IMAGINE grant: Discover Daycare

The outdoor play equipment and safety surface at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

It’s no secret that active outdoor play is important for children. In a recent paper on the benefits of outdoor active play, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and their partners state that kids who are outside move more and sit less, which contributes to a wide variety of health benefits.

The importance of outdoor play was clear to the Discovery Childcare Centre in Prince Rupert, but they just didn’t have the equipment to support that active play outdoors. And so, when the Board of Directors for the centre identified a new playground as a priority, they turned to the IMAGINE Community Grants program to help make the vision a reality.

More of the outdoor play equipment at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

Through years of focused effort, the daycare fundraised almost $40,000 to put toward the purchase and installation of new playground equipment for the 32 kids in their care. Their efforts took dedication and commitment, and in fall 2017 they were very close to achieving their goal!

However, one key piece remained: site preparation, including the purchase and installation of Playfall Tile, a rubberized safety surface manufactured from recycled tires that would cushion the inevitable falls of the hundreds of children who would enjoy the equipment over the years.  The quote for this work came in at roughly $5,000, and so the Board approved the submission of an application for an IMAGINE grant. The application was approved in spring 2018 and work began in June.

After its completion in August 2018, the new playground was an immediate hit with the kids attending the centre. Having a safe place to play outside, and the right equipment for that play, made a big difference for everyone. The centre has already observed that there is room for more growth in the future, with a key focus being the development of a garden area near the playground that will let kids learn about planting, growing, and eating fresh food. IMAGINE is proud to have contributed to this amazing project, and look forward to hearing about the centre’s successes in the future!

The IMAGINE Grant spring cycle is now accepting applications! Get yours in today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE Grant: Trail Blazers

Riding a bike is one of those experiences that most people associate with being a kid, but the truth is many kids don’t get the chance to have that experience. The cost of buying a bike is a major barrier for some families, and additional costs like helmets and maintenance can put the activity out of reach. Many students at Westwood Elementary School in Prince George are among those not fortunate enough to own a bike, and this motivated a teacher, Tanja Wilson, to apply for an IMAGINE Community Grant to start the Trail Blazers program at the school.

Westwood school kids on bikes.

“I saw the need for some of our youth to be able to enjoy bike riding, and I wanted to incorporate it into an after school program so that everyone could join,” says Wilson. “I wanted to help kids learn not only how to ride a bike, but also safety rules and basic bike fixes such as how to put a chain back on, and how to lower a seat.” 

With funding in place, Tanja first set out to purchase the equipment: 25 bikes, 25 helmets, and 25 sets of pads, in sizes to accommodate students of all ages. She then arranged lessons about bike safety and maintenance for the kids, including hand signals, crossing roads, and how to replace a broken chain. Once this was completed, it was ride time.

“It was FANTASTIC!! Not only did the students enjoy it, their parents did as well.”

The program ran twice a week for primary students and twice for intermediates. The route between Westwood Elementary and nearby Ginters Park quickly became a fan favourite. At the park, the kids explored trails and were able to enjoy a healthy snack before riding back to school!

The program was a hit, seeing huge growth in participation over time and giving many students the opportunity to engage in fun, healthy, and safe physical activity with their friends.

All kids should have the chance to play, but sometimes barriers they can’t control get in the way. By supporting projects like Trail Blazers, the IMAGINE Community Grants program helps break these barriers down, one ride at a time. The Spring 2019 IMAGINE intake opens to applications on March 1, 2019, with applications due March 31. For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants web page.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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Adulting 101: Running safely in winter

Haylee in her winter running gear.

What comes next after learning to “adult” and walk safely? Why, running of course! Until recently I would’ve never considered going for a run at night in the winter. Why would I leave my warm house to gallivant in the snow and ice? One of my goals is to do a triathlon so I decided I needed to break it down and work on one piece of it: you guessed it – running!

So there I found myself: running outside in the winter. I realized that contrary to my old beliefs, life and being physically active doesn’t stop because it’s winter! I’ll admit the cold and darkness didn’t encourage me to jump out the door, but I do know I felt really good once I was out there. In fact, there was a whole group of us that felt pretty darn good in the snow! I decided to join one of my local running groups, the PG Road Runners, for a Wednesday night group run and even made some friends while tromping through the slush. Other perks: I learned snow is weirdly satisfying to crunch under my feet and I got a much needed dose of vitamin N (nature!) from being outside! Plus, it was fun to try something new and I felt so good after!

Are you interested in taking the icy plunge and running outside this winter? Here are five things I recommend for winter running.

Five tips for winter running:

A selection of gear for winter running.
  1. Stay safe and wear reflective gear! Making sure you’re seen is really important when out running in the dark. Nearly half of all crashes with pedestrians happen in the fall and winter due to the dark and low visibility! Leave the all-black clothing at home and stay safe by wearing bright, reflective gear!
  2. Get a grip. My biggest worry about running in the winter was slipping and falling. I’d heard that wearing ice grippers over your running shoes could help, and when I showed up to my running group, everyone was wearing them! I tried running in them and felt much more sure-footed. That said, you still need to be very careful and watch your step! I thought they might be uncomfortable but they were barely noticeable for me. If you do get a pair, I’d recommend them for walking too!
  3. Light your way. I didn’t have a headlamp for my first winter night run and I wish I did! I thought the street lamps would do the trick but I didn’t account for the dark spots between the street lamps. Oops. I picked one up for my next night run and it made a huge difference being able to see where I was stepping. If you do decide to invest, you could use it for other winter activities like snowshoeing!
  4. Don’t get cold feet. Thanks to the freeze and thaw weather in Prince George lately, I ran through a lot of slush puddles. My feet were wet but they stayed warm thanks to my wool socks. Unlike cotton, wool helps trap heat and keep it close to your body so you stay warm. I’d highly recommend a pair.   
  5. Dress lighter than the weather feels – I learned this the hard way. It gets hot when running! I didn’t check the weather before my first run, dressed too warm and overheated halfway through. Make sure you check the weather before you go and then choose your layers accordingly.   

As an amateur runner I’m probably just skimming the surface when it comes to advice. Are you part of a running group? Do you have any winter running tips? Leave your comments below! Stay safe and happy running!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Being a teen can be tough! Getting active can help

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Northern Health’s Healthier You – Fall 2018 edition on Youth Mental Wellness. Read the full issue here.)

A dog with a backpack behind people snowshoeing.

When I was a teenager, my family used to tease me, lovingly, about riding a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I was flying high, giddy and unstoppable, the next minute I would be physically drooping, bored, and waiting for something or someone to pick me back up again. Everything that happened to and around me was a big deal, and I was deeply affected, positively or negatively.

Life as a teenager was not easy, and that was before smartphones and social media were a thing. Today’s teens deal with all of the same life changes and stressors people my age dealt with, and then some. There seems to be significantly more pressure to perform, in school, sports, socially… not only in person, but also virtually. While the pressure used to ease when we got home at the end of the day, there is no reprieve today; a person’s online presence never rests.

It’s no wonder anxiety, depression, and other related mental health concerns are so frequently mentioned while referring to today’s youth population.

Additionally, because today’s social life is quite often literally located at arms’ length (on our handheld devices), motivation to get out and engage face-to-face is low, which leads to increasingly sedentary (inactive) lifestyles.

The positive link between physical activity and improved mental health is well documented, but did you know that high rates of sedentary time have been linked to a greater risk of developing depression in adolescence? If we weren’t already concerned about rising rates of sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity, we now should be.

Here are a few ways making physical activity a priority can help improve youth mental wellness:

  1. Physical activity is a healthy coping mechanism. It can help clear the mind and decrease anxiety levels.
  2. Physical activity provides a “time out” from online pressures. Chances are, whether we’re doing something active solo or with others, we’re not bothering to check our phones for a while. Having a healthy distraction can help put whatever is happening online into perspective.
  3. Getting involved in an activity or sport with others helps build social connections, which are vital to our emotional well-being.
  4. Being physically active helps boost self-esteem – a key indicator of mental health! It also helps us build resilience to fight daily stressors.
  5. One word: endorphins! When we raise our heart rates, our bodies produce endorphins, or “feel-good” chemicals, giving us an immediate mental boost.

The physical and mental health benefits of being active can be realized in a variety of ways, which is why it’s important that youth are exposed to as many different forms of physical activity as possible to assist in finding something exciting and enjoyable. You don’t have to be a superstar athlete, or a “gym rat,” and there is no single “must do” physical activity to help you reach your full potential. Full potential is individual, and reached when you find that thing (or things) that makes you tick. Once you discover it, whether it’s running, basketball, hiking, foraging, snowshoeing, etc., you’ll notice how good you feel whenever you do it, you’ll want to keep on doing it, and you’ll continue to reap the benefits from it, in every aspect of your life.  

For more information on the links between physical activity and mental health:

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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Adulting 101: Walking safely in winter

Haylee waiting to cross a street with a reflective item on her bag.

Sometimes it’s good to get a refresher on how to “adult” and do the basics – such as walking safely! For those of you not familiar with the term adulting, the Oxford dictionary says it’s “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.”

For most of us, walking is a necessary task – but what does that mean in the winter time? Along with snowflakes and shoveling, it means darker days and less visibility when out walking or driving. Did you know that nearly half (43%) of all crashes with pedestrians happen in the fall and winter as conditions get worse?

As someone who walks to work, this fact really struck a chord with me. Was I doing everything I could to make sure I was walking safely to and from work? I was able to get some road safety advice from ICBC that I want to share with you. Here are their five tips for walking safer in winter.

Five tips for walking safely in winter:

  1. Be careful at intersections – watch for drivers turning left or right through the crosswalk. I always check before I cross. Drivers may be focused on oncoming traffic and not see you. I’ve had close calls as both a pedestrian and a driver so be safe and check before you cross!
  2. Don’t jaywalk – I know it’s tempting but always use crosswalks and follow the pedestrian signs and traffic signals. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  3. Make eye contact with drivers, as it’s hard to see pedestrians when visibility is poor in fall and winter. I go by this rule when crossing the street: if I can’t see the driver’s eyeballs, I don’t cross! Never assume that a driver has seen you.
  4. Remove your headphones and take a break from your phone while crossing the road. One thing I love about walking to work is that it gives me time to listen to a podcast or some good tunes. That said, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you, especially when crossing the street! Unplug and pay attention when you cross!
  5. Be as reflective as possible to make it easier for drivers to see you in wet weather, at dusk, and at night. On dark walks home, I wear blinking lights (I attach bike lights to my satchel!) and wear reflective accessories so drivers can see me.

What do you do to make sure you’re “adulting” well and walking safely in dark conditions? Leave your tips in the comments below! Stay safe and happy walking!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Wellness at Work: Tips from your Recreation Therapist

jaymee webster on a bridge in the woods with her dog.In the world of recreation therapy, we often think of wellness as not the absence of disease, but rather on a spectrum. As such, there are many factors – physical, social and psychological – that have an impact on someone’s ability to reach optimal wellness. Optimal wellness is personal and it changes throughout the lifespan; it looks different for everyone.

As a recreation therapist in the rehabilitation setting, I work with those whose well-being or independence has been compromised due to multiple health or social problems. I provide leisure education opportunities for individuals to learn the benefits of leisure involvement, how it can have an impact on well-being, and what opportunities are available to them in their home community.

My work has an obvious link to wellness and I am passionate about leisure and recreation. In my spare time, I love exploring the many trails in the Prince George area with my dog, Juno. However, focusing on your well-being doesn’t have to stop when you get to work. We spend a lot of time at our work place.

Here are some things that I try to make a priority for keeping well at work:

  1. Pack a lunch and eat it too.
    Bringing food from home tends to be the healthier and the most cost-effective option. And don’t forget to eat it! The only way to give yourself the energy to perform your job effectively is to actually eat the food.
  2. Take the stairs.
    Take any opportunity to get yourself moving during the day.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep.
    I know this one’s easier said than done, but try to make it a priority. When Netflix asks if you want to continue watching… click “No.” It will set you up for a much better work day. Your body will thank you!
  4. Make a list.
    Managing your time and prioritizing tasks helps reduce workload stress. Take a deep breath while you’re at it!
  5. Have a laugh.
    Professional boundaries are important, but so is being yourself. Get to know those around you. If you’re in a helping profession, get to know the individuals you’re working with. Sharing an inside joke does wonderful things for the therapeutic relationship! Smiling and laughing can be contagious but that’s okay, it’s good for you!
  6. Balance.
    Leisure is defined as time free from obligation, an activity that is freely chosen and as a state of mind. Engaging in meaningful recreation and leisure activities in your personal life has the ability to improve overall well-being, which will spill over into your work life as well.

Wellness is a dynamic process that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. I challenge all of you to set an achievable wellness at work goal this spring, because a healthier you leads to a healthier work environment!

You can also view this article in Northern Health Spring 2018 edition of the Healthier You Magazine, Wellness by Professionals.

About Jaymee Webster

Jaymee Webster is a Activity Worker Recreational Therapist at Northern Health.

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