Healthy Living in the North

Lunch time activities

Row of women in yoga poses.

Between school and work, it can seem difficult to get to the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity each week. For Ashley, one solution to this time crunch was to use her lunch time for physical activity.

While going to school and working full time last year, one of my biggest fears was a serious increase in sedentary behaviour and a decline in physical activity due to inactivity, tight schedules, and changing priorities. I decided to get my friends on board to make sure that I would still be physically active. Everyone knows how difficult it can seem to make physical activity a priority, especially when we have a lot of on the go that can’t be put off, so I counted on my friends’ support to make the most of the available moments. Remember, all it takes is 150 minutes of physical activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more, so the moments were there, I just had to find them.

My solution? Yoga and walks at lunch were a great start. I went to a yoga class with my girlfriends during my lunch hour which would otherwise be sedentary down time. In my case, I was lucky to be able to visit some gyms downtown, all of which offered great classes during the lunch hour that had me back at work within an hour. For me, yoga was a good lunch time activity because it cleared my head and got me moving without being as strenuous as other classes so I wasn’t arriving back at work in a sweaty mess. Drawing on the name of one of the movements, my friends and I nicknamed our fitness lunches “fist to palm.” I like to think of the lunch time activity breaks as transforming my frustrating work day (a fist) into a calming state of mind (a palm). Cheesy? Yes. Awesome? Also yes.

Woman in yoga pose in front of a mirror

For Ashley, yoga and lunch time walks helped her to reach 150 minutes of physical activity each week. How will you get to 150 in 2015?

My second solution to the physical activity time crunch was lunch time walks. When my friends asked me what they could get me for my birthday, I responded by saying: “one day a week, walk with me at lunch time.” I have enough stuff to last me a lifetime so what I really want from my friends is quality time and a healthy lifestyle for all of us. Luckily, I have some great friends who work close by. Going for a brisk 30-40 minute walk downtown or at one of Prince George’s great downtown parks a couple times a week makes a huge difference – remember that as an adult, you only need 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity each week to gain all sorts of health benefits! Besides, what else are you going to do at lunch? Eating takes about 10-15 minutes so that can leave lots of time for healthy, productive, and restorative walking (and gabbing) with good friends. Give it a try!

Ashley Ellerbeck

About Ashley Ellerbeck

Ashley has been a recruiter for Northern Health since 2011 and absolutely loves her job and living in northern B.C. Ashley was born and raised in Salmon Arm and then obtained her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops before completing her master's degree at UNBC. When not travelling across Canada recruiting health care professionals, Ashley enjoys being outside, yoga, cooking, real estate, her amazing friends, and travelling the globe. (Ashley no longer works at Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)


Learning to listen to your body

Balance Rock

Just outside of Skidegate, Balance Rock is one of the pictures that might say it all …Finding balance. (photo credit Tony Carter)

For years, I had used exercise, in particular running, as a way to relieve stress, get calm and refocused. I welcomed seasonal changes: running past shrubs laden with hoar frost on icy roads, running on muddy trails, or trying to dodge mosquitoes in the early morning; these runs were my time. Before long, I was training for my first marathon. Then I started in on the V series, traveling to cities that started with a V, like Vancouver and Victoria in BC, or Vienna in Austria. Yes, this does sound a bit obsessive compulsive. If running one marathon per year seemed like a reasonable goal to me, running two or three per year seemed even better. Acquaintances would often ask me about my knees, but my knees were fine. What eventually did give me grief was the area around my Achilles tendon. Taking a week off did not result in lasting improvements, and I knew that I had to dial back my efforts. A few physiotherapy appointments provided me with exercise suggestions, and I set right to them, but there was no way that I was about to hit the pavement any time soon.

As a healthcare worker whose job involves a fair amount of deep listening, I seemed to have been doing a poor job of listening to my body. Luckily, I had also taken yoga over the years, and its subtle message helped me to deal with the restlessness and irritability that came with having to slow down. Initially, I couldn’t even do any of the standing yoga poses. Once the Achilles was healed, bursitis of the Trochanter dogged my efforts for another year and a half.

I am not unfamiliar with grief and loss; once I had reached acceptance of my physical state, I was able to recall what else gave me joy in life. I didn’t have to look far as our living room was built around a piano. A lot of people’s effort went into getting it there, but it hadn’t been played in years. An itinerant piano tuner gave it some love and attention, and I was able to coax a few sounds from it. Research on the aging brain suggests that important lifestyle changes can help us to keep ourselves in the best possible cognitive shape. Learning to dance, a new language, or playing an instrument all are fun ways of challenging your brain. Your local Alzheimer Society has a host of tips.

Once again, acceptance was critical. Beginner’s mistakes help me learn; and my partner, who has a solid musical background but no longer plays the trombone, remains remarkably tolerant. Now that I am back on the road, I can go for a short run, come home and play myself a lullaby.

“By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.”

-Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer

Astrid Egger

About Astrid Egger

Astrid Egger has been working with Northern Health since 2002 and is currently Team Leader for Haida Gwaii mental health and addiction services. She is active in the Haida Gwaii Arts Council and enjoys the changing wind and wave patterns on the inlet.