Healthy Living in the North

Moving and eating well on road trips

Lasalle Lake is pictured. There's a floating dock in the lake, and forest and mountains in the background.

The view of Lasalle Lake — a beautiful way to break up the trip between Prince George and Valemount!

Even though it feels like summer is flying by, it’s only mid-August, and there’s still plenty of summer-road-trip time before the weather turns! I love me a road trip: the conversation that arises from being in a car with someone for hours; the tunes and the awful, off-key karaoke; and all of the stops along the way!

Those stops are generally for any combination of food, scenery, or a bio-break, but there’s also a great health benefit. After hours of sitting, it’s important to move! The same concerns that you hear around sedentary workplaces and lifestyles apply to long-distance travel. While it’s great to get to your destination ASAP, sitting less and moving more is always a good choice.

Admittedly, I’m not great at making the kinds of stops that make for positive heath impacts, but my wife loves to get out and enjoy the scenery. Recently, before heading home to Prince George from Valemount, she asked a local if there was a good lake to stop at on our route home. He told us to check out Lasalle Lake, and it was gorgeous! On top of enjoying a stunning view, stopping gave us a chance to get some steps in (time that we counted towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week), have a stretch, and take a swim before carrying on. That stop added a nice “bonus” memory to the trip too! And it was as easy as asking someone, followed by a quick search on Google Maps. Just remember to always choose a location that suits your fitness level.

I also find planning to stop at an outdoor location challenges us to pack a lunch in a cooler, which usually ends up being healthier than the fast food options on the side of the highway. We usually do sandwiches, but sometimes we treat ourselves to a little meat and cheese board (nom-nom-nom!). Regardless of how healthy we pack, we always feel less rushed and enjoy our food more when we’ve found a nice spot to relax. As the primary driver, I always feel more refreshed and in a better headspace for driving too.

Do you have a favourite place to stop between destinations? What’s in your picnic basket when you stop for lunch? Let me know in the comments below, and safe travels!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Sedentary Behaviours – They’re not all created equal!

The sun sets over water in the distance. The sky is blue and gold punctuated by clouds. In the foreground, a silhouette watches the beautiful scene.

Some sedentary behaviours are good for your well-being, like taking in a soothing sunset.

The new smoking.” Sedentary time (time spent in a sitting or lying position while expending very little energy) has come under fire for its negative health effects lately. While there are certainly significant health risks associated with time spent being sedentary, calling it “the new smoking” is a bit of a scare tactic – smoking is still riskier.

At this point, you might be starting to doubt my intentions. After all, my job is to promote increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behaviour in the name of better health. Fear not! I’ll get there yet.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five years of age:

This is really exciting because the WHO took the evidence used in the development of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4), reviewed more evidence, and reinforced these main messages:

  • Kids need to get a good amount and variety of physical activity each day.
    • For those under one year, being active several times a day including floor-based play and tummy time.
    • For kids between one to two years of age, at least three hours at any intensity throughout the day.
    • For kids between three to four years of age, at least three hours, including at least one hour of higher intensity activity throughout the day.
  • Kids need to get enough – and good quality – sleep!
    • For those under one year, the recommendation is 12-17 hours including naps.
    • For ages one to two, 11-14 hours.
    • For ages three to four, 10-13 hours.
  • Kids need to spend less (or limited) time being restrained and sitting in front of screens.
    • Translation? Not being stuck in a stroller or car seat for more than one hour at a time. Screen time isn’t recommended for children under two years, and it’s recommended to limit sedentary screen time to no more than one hour for kids aged between two and four.

Here’s what I really appreciate about this last part, and what I think actually applies to all ages: the recommendation is to replace restrained and sedentary screen time with more physical activity, while still ensuring a good quality sleep. However, it doesn’t tell us to avoid all sedentary time completely. In fact, this concept recognizes that there are a number of sedentary activities (particularly in the early, developmental years, but also for all ages) that are very valuable from a holistic wellness perspective.

For children, these higher quality sedentary activities include quiet play, reading, creative storytelling and interacting with caregivers, etc. For adults, things like reading a book, creating something, making music, or working on a puzzle can contribute to our overall wellness by expanding our minds and focusing on something positive.

So, what I’m saying is this: yes, for the sake of our health, we need to sit less and move more. However, not all sedentary behaviours are terrible or need to be eliminated completely. Generally, the sedentary behaviours that we, as a society, need to get a handle on are the ones involving staring at screens and numbing our brains. This is not to say that we should never watch TV or movies, or scroll through social media; we just need to be mindful of it, and try to swap out some of these activities in favour of moving our bodies more. We need to recognize the difference between those sedentary activities that leave you feeling sluggish and dull versus those that leave you inspired and peaceful. Do less of what dulls you, and more of what inspires you, for a balanced, healthy life!

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.


The other 23.5 hours: Weaving movement into your life

Woman reading a book on the floor

For Anne, staying active as she ages is about looking at the “other 23.5 hours”, not just the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity. Little things – like sitting on the floor to encourage shifting into different positions – can make a big difference!

Did you exercise for a half-hour today?

Huge respect to you – this is so much more than many people achieve.

But for healthy aging, I’ve found it works to turn that tally on its head.

You may have exercised for a half-hour, but for the other 23.5, you probably took short walks on level ground (at the grocery store, shopping mall, house or office), sat, or lay down.

That is, if you’re an average North American. Those of you who are Amish (average daily steps: 18,000 for men, 14,000 for women) can stop reading now. Ditto any hunter-gatherers out there (average daily km: 6 to 16).

But for everyone else, why not think about it the other way?

Instead of counting the hours you exercise, count the hours you’re not active, then try and shrink that number.

As biomechanist Katy Bowman says in an article on Breaking Muscle,

When we’ve checked the exercise box, we perceive ourselves as active, but it’s our almost-all-day stillness that is the problem.

That doesn’t mean breaking a sweat every moment – it means lots of little “movement snacks” sprinkled throughout the day.

Here’s what it looks like for me, at age almost-55:

  • Watching TV or using my home computer while sitting (or lying, or kneeling) on the floor. I end up changing positions more often; plus, getting up and down improves my balance, strength, and flexibility. One study showed that how easily you can get up and down from the floor is a good predictor of how long you’ll live.
  • Standing up when I’m on the phone – it’s also a chance to stretch.
  • At the grocery store, carrying a basket instead of using a cart or one of those wheeled baskets. My upper body loves this! (Obviously not practical for giant grocery runs, though!)
  • You knew I was going to say this: parking farther away, and taking the stairs! I love my 7-minute walk to and from work twice a day – it’s a nice transition, and a chance to ponder the day. As for taking the stairs to my 6th-floor office, I do this about 60% of the time, but even that makes a difference to my leg strength – I really see a difference if I stop.
  • At work, taking a 2-minute break every half hour or so to walk, stretch, or stand up. Research shows that a 2-minute break every 20 minutes can almost completely counteract the negative effects of sitting.

Plus, continuing with this kind of low-level activity as part of my normal activities should be very do-able as I age.

To sum up, movement should not be a special event in your day that takes place only at a gym, the track, the pool, etc. You should absolutely do those more intense sessions of formal exercise, if you can, but low-level activity should also be woven throughout your day.

In the words of this article,

Ultimately, your body doesn’t know whether you’re on a treadmill or a trail, or if you’re lifting a barbell or a bag of groceries. All it knows is that it was made for the movement. And lots of it.

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!


Tales from the Man Cave: Staying healthy is a walk in the park

Walking path beside a river.

Take advantage of the beauty around us to do the healthy thing.

Studies show that being born eventually leads to death 100% of the time in men. OK, I jest, but we men do die sooner than women on average, which is something to think on. So this post is not about the avoidance of death but rather the making of life as good as it gets until that time comes. Everything after that is in the realm of philosophy or theology!

For me, avoiding the consequences of sedentary behaviour are crucial, as studies show that being sedentary is really quite bad for your health. I have also determined that I am so important that it is imperative that I stay alive … you probably feel the same way about yourself! But our world conspires through various means to ensure that we remain sedentary, even if we work hard (generally speaking).

So what is sedentary behaviour?

  • Sitting for long periods, with little movement.
  • Watching TV, working at a computer, playing video games, or even driving.

These days, many people know about health and are striving to keep some level of fitness. When we look around us, gyms are pretty busy and many of us are outside running, jogging, and walking.

So why are so many people “unhealthy”?

It turns out that even if you are an active person (meaning you meet the guideline for adults of 150 minutes per week of physical activity), being sedentary for more than 6 hours a day may actually negate those health benefits.

We can certainly identify many of the culprits:

  • Long commutes to work (read: sitting down in car with higher blood pressure).
  • Sitting at a desk all day for work.
  • The loss of the local store so that most stores are far from the family home (read: sitting down in car with … yeah, you get it!)
  • Stress can also lead us to withdraw, which can mean sitting at home watching TV or being on the computer or our phones either with social media or Netflix, just trying to pass the time and take a little heat off ourselves.

But what if all that sitting down and screen time was actually a major cause or a contributor to stress? It’s a good question and studies agree: we don’t move enough! If you sit 6 hours or more a day, then your behaviour is sedentary. It does not take long to accumulate 6 hours of sitting, either – count how many hours you spent sitting today!

If, like me, you want to live as long as possible, there exists an easy exercise that many can engage in at low cost. Here are the benefits of this easy exercise:

  • Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease as well as lowering that blood pressure.
  • Reduces cholesterol and body fat and increases bone density.
  • Enhances mental well-being and increases flexibility and co-ordination.
  • Reduces the risk of cancer of the colon

Sound good? Let’s give it a shot!

What is it? Well, it’s a walk in the park!

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.


Staying motivated for healthy changes

Two runners outside

A group, team, or friend is a great way to stay motivated as you work towards your physical activity goals. The common goal of wanting to be more active brought Theresa’s group of activity seekers to marathons, local races, and other fitness goals!

If you put us all in the same room we look like a real rag, tag and bobtail crew. We are different ages, sizes, races and genders. However, we all have one thing in common: we all want to be more active. More specifically, we want to find ways of being more active that won’t worsen other injuries or ailments acquired over the years.

My northern group of activity seekers have settled on running. We are all on a journey to run a race. For some, it is a marathon (42 km); for others, it’s a half-marathon (21 km) or other race distance (8 km). They are personal fitness goals and we are all at different stages of that journey. Some of us are still using training wheels. Some of us run up the sides of mountains on a regular basis. But there are no differences in the levels of support and encouragement that each of us offers another.

Some of us are aiming for the Totem to Totem half-marathon on Haida Gwaii as our first racing endeavour. Others are aiming for the BMO Vancouver Marathon or Half-Marathon event (May 2015). These events are far enough away to seem possible at this point and fear has not yet kicked in. Yet, there is more to all this than standing at the start line and running to cross the finish line. Paying attention to nutrition, to exercising muscles, and to building stamina are all equally important to running well.

It motivates me to see this disparate group of people tackling the physical challenges of a race and the emotional and psychological barriers that interfere with putting it all out there. As we are all Northern Health staff, we are also really putting Northern Health’s words and policies around increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour into action. We really want our northern communities to get healthier and we can’t ask of others what we cannot do ourselves. And truly, if we can do it – then anyone can. We’ve set goals for ourselves and have stitched together a seemingly odd group of supporters, but we all believe in each other and will help each other get there.

What can you do to get moving more?

Find more information on our goals (or, set your own goals) here:

This article was first published in the February 2015 issue of A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.


Make plans for activity this spring!

Four children playing on a tire swing.

Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! With spring upon us, it is a great time to get out and play as a family or community! Kids and adults alike won’t even realize they’re being active when they’re socializing at the same time!

From Dease Lake to Prince George, the sidewalks and streets are basically clear of the white stuff at this point! The weather is warmer, my children have their bikes out and the tuques and mitts have been put away. For me, these are all the signs I need to say that spring is officially here!

We were pretty lucky to have had a mild winter in most parts of northern B.C. this year, but the colder temperatures, shorter days, and snowy and icy conditions will still have kept many people indoors for the season. This hibernation often results in a decrease in physical activity over the winter months which comes with a cost to our health.

We now have more information about how spending the majority of our time sitting is not good for our health. We know that decreased physical activity raises our risk for a number of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can also affect our mental health. Now that we have sprung into spring, it’s a good time to turn that sedentary behavior around and take a positive approach to getting and staying healthy!

Here are a few tips for getting started with any physical activity plans this spring:

Wear proper footwear.

Having the right footwear for activity will ensure comfort and the ability to continue with the activity of choice. Walking is one of the single most beneficial things for our health as almost anyone can do it and it’s free! Walking shoes or running shoes will provide good support and the proper fit will prevent blisters and calluses. There are a wide variety of shoes available and appropriate for all activity levels that will fit into most people’s budgets. Proper footwear is definitely a good investment and will keep you moving!

Grab a fitness buddy or activity partner.

Finding someone with whom to share our physical activity goals is one of the best motivators to keep us invested in staying active. Find someone who will go walking or try a new activity with you and make a plan! You’ll get to socialize with your friends or family and it won’t even seem like exercise! This goes for kids, too! Encourage kids to get outdoors and play with their friends. Spring is the perfect time for kids to be outside and exploring. They’ll be so busy having fun that they won’t even realize they are getting exercise.

Set goals for yourself and your family to meet Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.

Adults need 150 minutes of activity per week. That’s per week, not per day! If we were to break that down, it’s just over 20 minutes per day, which should be achievable for most people.

If you’re just starting out, start slow and you can even break that down to bouts of 10 minutes at a time, gradually working your way up to meeting the recommendations. The biggest goal for all of us is to move more and sit less every day, whatever that looks like for each individual! We should all strive for more movement! A pedometer or step counter can be an encouraging way to help keep track of progress.

These goals apply to children as well. To achieve health benefits, kids need 60 minutes of activity per day. As parents and caregivers, we can’t assume that kids get all of their physical activity during the day and then be OK with them coming home after school and sitting around on electronics and watching screens. Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! Make every effort to be positive, active living role models for our kids and our communities. It truly benefits everyone.

In addition to those 3 tips, the importance of progression and patience needs to be highlighted. Adults should start slow if they’re just beginning a new activity or routine and take time to work up to the recommended guidelines, especially if they haven’t been active for some time. The progression will take longer for some people, but as activity levels progress, so will the health benefits! Incorporating light stretching before and after any type of activity is also worthwhile as it warms up our muscles and joints and can prevent injury, which will keep us on the road to increased activity and improved health.

Stick with these tips and your goals and have patience. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your successes! Let’s get outside and enjoy these first signs of spring!

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.


Helping or Harming:  Reflections from 20 years of being a Dietitian

A crowd of people attends a farmers' market

“Healthy” comes in all shapes and sizes.

Oh, the conviction of youth!  Long gone are the unshakable beliefs from my dietetic internship about how to define “healthy” and the importance of weight in preventing disease. Twenty years have passed and, in that time, I’ve worked in five different provinces with a variety of patients and partner organizations. For instance, young families; schools; clients living with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and disordered eating; and seniors in care homes, all of whom came from very diverse backgrounds.  In nearly every case, health was defined, in part, by weight. Today, I question that belief. Why? Because I’ve seen so many instances where a subtle emphasis on weight has contributed to some harm.

I’ve learned that while weight is often one of the first lines of treatment when someone is diagnosed with a chronic disease, research tells us that less than one percent of people successfully keep weight off after four years, and usually regain the lost weight plus some. In the end, after treatment, people are at a higher weight and often feel bad about themselves. This can’t be good for health.  Does it make sense to promote a treatment that is doomed to fail?

The recommendation to lose weight perpetuates something called the “thin ideal” (believing that a slim body is the standard for beauty and health), which is based on an assumption that people defined as “overweight” (as per the problematic standard of BMI or body mass index) eat poorly, too often, and do not move enough. My twenty years of experience tell me that this is not the case. Rather, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes and are supported by healthy and intuitive eating, active living, and positive self-esteem. Thus, a better plan is to focus on supporting everyone, no matter their size, to live well.

The “thin ideal” has normalized weight bias and stigma, where we live, work, play, and are cared for. What is weight bias and weight stigma?

  • Weight bias is a negative judgement of someone because of their weight, shape and/or size.
  • Weight stigma is what a person experiences when weight bias happens to them.

Weight bias and stigma can seem harmless and might even be done in the spirit of helpfulness, but it still hurts. Examples of weight stigma include:

  • Refusing to offer dessert to someone and/or questioning whether someone “needs” that serving of dessert because of their size.
  • Using headless images of “overweight” people or images of “overweight” people being sedentary in handouts and presentations.
  • Using the word “fat” as an insult instead of what it is, which is a physical description of body composition.
  • Assuming someone is unhealthy if “overweight” or healthy if “underweight” or “normal weight.”
  • Failing to offer healthy food at school because “we don’t have fat kids at our school” (yes, one school actually gave this as a reason why they didn’t need to follow the Guidelines for the Sale of Food and Beverages in BC Schools!).

Weight bias needs to stop.  It starts with us thinking about what our own biases and assumptions about weight might be (take the Weight Implicit Attitudes Test) and developing respect and empathy for people who are impacted by weight bias. Last week was Weight Stigma Awareness Week, but it’s an issue that we need to be aware of all year round. Learn more here.

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.


Indoors and in trouble

Sitting on the couch, laptop open, being sedentary.

This is where I was commonly found at my old residence.

I moved from Vancouver to Prince George in 2007. That year I experienced my first “Canadian winter”… and it was horrible. Because I didn’t know many people in town, my life consisted of working eight hours, going home to sit on the couch for a night of TV, and sleep. It was repetitive, monotonous, and boring. The basement suite that had seemed like a cozy place to hang my hat in the summer and fall had turned into a prison: its 70s wood panel walls like bars, my roommate a cellmate, its small windows offering a glimpse into a snowy world that I wished would melt away. Am I being a tad melodramatic? Without a doubt, but you get the point: cabin fever had set in. Sadly, I felt this way every winter for the first three years I lived in PG.

Today, I take advantage of winter, embracing it instead of dreading its arrival, and look back at how I used to feel with regret. So, what changed?

Thanks in large part to my girlfriend and her family, I’ve taken up ice fishing and snowmobiling, and, just last weekend, I went for my first snowshoe. Snowmobiling isn’t something everyone can afford; purchasing a snowmobile, buying gas, and maintaining the vehicle adds up. I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford it myself. But what was my reason for not fishing and snowshoeing sooner? Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case for me and it doesn’t have to be for you either.

Research shows that having a good social life has several benefits to your mental well-being, that an active lifestyle helps you live longer, and that getting outside to take in some vitamin D has numerous positive effects.

Winter has settled in and probably won’t be leaving for the better part of a couple months still. As I learned the hard way, that’s a long time to be held by the dull and rather depressing grip of cabin fever. With that in mind, please consider taking five minutes to plan an outdoor activity for this weekend (weather permitting, of course),  get a friend involved – perhaps someone you’ve been meaning to connect with for a while – and enjoy.

Do you or have you ever experienced cabin fever? How’d you overcome it? How do you take advantage of winter?

Be sure to caption about cabin fever in our caption contest to enter to win a $300 GC!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Getting to know you…on a walking break!

[Editor’s note: Last month, Theresa Healy introduced the idea of walking meetings. Here’s an NH staff member putting the advice into action!]

walking break

Candice (left) and her teammates on a walking break outside their office, downtown Prince George.

As a newcomer to Northern Health’s quality & innovation team, I’m building new relationships and getting to know my team. Inviting my colleagues for a mid-day walking break has given me the chance to get to know them a bit better and share ideas. It’s also a great way to stay fit without cutting into family time at the end of the day!

Getting your team out for walking breaks has all sorts of benefits. Northern Health’s guidelines on “getting moving” (position statement on sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity) suggest any form of physical activity is important and beneficial. Adding more activity into our work day also supports Northern Health’s strategic directions to foster a safe and healthy workplace, which has been shown to both attract and retain staff. BCRPA Walk BC suggests workplace walking has been shown to decrease staff turnover, lower absenteeism, and improve productivity. From a quality improvement perspective, it makes sense to promote walking breaks to see these overall benefits in our staff and our productivity! For me, getting out for a mid-day walk makes me feel a bit more energetic and alert, improving my work efficiency in the afternoon.

Next time you’re ready for a break, take a look around your workspace and ask if any of your colleagues want to head out for a walk. Use that time to get to know your team while improving your health, along with your workplace efficiency!

I also found some great information online about starting a walking program for your community or workplace, on the BCRPA ‘Walking Program Resources’ page.

Have you tried walking breaks or walking meetings yet?

Candice Manahan

About Candice Manahan

Candice is the regional manager, decision support tools for Northern Health’s quality and innovation team. Candice works to build a culture of evidence-informed practice, ensuring our staff have access to meaningful policies, procedures, protocols and guidelines to inform their work. Candice is originally from Prince George and obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Northern BC. With over a decade of experience coordinating and managing projects in health services research in our region, Candice has taken a special interest in improving health care services and accessibility for those living in northern B.C. When she’s not at work, she loves spending time with her family, going for walks and checking out all that Prince George has to offer.


Recess isn’t just for kids (and September Healthy Living Challenge #2!)

Jessica and Anne using Dyna bands to stretch in their office.

Jessica and Anne using Dyna bands, part of the kit, to stretch in their office.

At one time or another, you may have walked past the office that I share with my colleague, Anne Scott, and noticed strange things occurring: push ups, yoga stretches, even chin ups in the doorframe. Yes, that’s happened. We’ve received a few strange looks, but definitely more cheers and, happily, several joiners.

My job involves a lot of desk time and sometimes I can get so wrapped up in editing or writing or some other consuming task that before I know it, three hours have gone by and I’ve barely moved. My body deeply resents these moments.

To help correct this negative behaviour, Anne and I have started incorporating activity breaks into our day-to-day routines – times when we both stop whatever task is at hand, stand up, take a few deep breaths and get our blood flowing and our muscles responding again. Besides being good for our bodies (you can read all about it in Northern Health’s guidelines on sedentary behaviour and physical activity), we find it really helps keep us alert and focused on our work throughout the whole day.

Woman using Dyna bands.

We’ve gotten visitors wanting to join us for stretch breaks too! Here, Barbara Hennessy, Regional Coordinator, Cardiac and Cerebrovascular Services, shows off with the Dyna bands.

Realizing that office workers sit for much of their day, another co-worker recently introduced me to a kit she’s developing (to be called a “Fit Kit”) to help people build extra activity into their day. Anne and I gave this kit a trial run for a couple of weeks and can happily report that it made our activity breaks a whole lot more fun and gave us quite the variety of stretches to work into our routines. People should be practicing resistance training (or weight training) three times per week, so having the option of using the kit for this while at work definitely saves a lot of time!

Now here’s where your Week 2 Challenge comes in! We want to know how you add activity into your work day: how do you find ways to get out of your chair and move? Send us your tips (and your photo proof) for your chance to win your very own Fit Kit!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post when we show you a video demonstrating how to use some of the Fit Kit items – you never know, it could just change your whole work day!

Tips for taking activity breaks in your office:

  • Do you ever get so wrapped up in what you’re working on that you forget to stretch? Try setting a timer (maybe an app on your smartphone or even an egg timer) or scheduling it into your calendar.
  • Partnering up with a colleague to help remind you (and vice versa) when it’s time to stretch can really help to motivate!
  • Creating a daily activity routine will help make your new activity goals stick better. Pick a time (or times) when it works for you and be sure to get active every day.
  • Getting weird looks while you do those push ups under your desk? Why not give them weird looks back for not doing push ups next to you! It’s time to break the stigma against sudden attacks of lunges and squats next to your desk!
  • Visit the Physical Activity Line website for more information on workplace activity.
Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public 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 manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, 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)