Use Your Own Fuel to Get Around

In our mechanized society you really don’t have to move much to get through the day. Perhaps the price of fuel and the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment are starting to motivate you to think a little differently about how you structure your day.

These 5 tips will help your family contribute positively to protecting the environment and your health while saving a few toonies at the same time. Have a chat over dinner tonight and decide as a family which of the 5 tips you want to try this week. At the end of the week, check in on your progress with the tip you tried and decide together which one you’ll add for the next week. If the tip you tried didn’t work out so well, talk about why not and how to be more successful at that tip or another one the next week.

Tip 1 – Use the car less. Even if you have an electric car or a hybrid, think twice before you jump in to drive the kids to school or pick up that one item you need for dinner. Go to bed earlier, get up earlier and walk the kids to school or cycle with them to school if that is possible. Do you drive to work? Could you cycle once a week instead and work up to 2-3 times a week? It’s better for your health and the environment. Saves on fuel and parking costs too.

Tip 2 – Park and walk. When you need to take the car, do you drive around looking for the closest spot to park? Park further away, it’s often less crowded and sometimes you can get limited free parking on the street rather than paying for parking close to businesses. Take in your surroundings, learn a new street name, count your steps. If the kids are with you, do it together. Keep phones in your pocket and no headphones. It is important to pay close attention to the traffic and the lights. There’s always one car that speeds through a yellow light or turns right at a red light even when it is not allowed.

Tip 3 – Dust off the bicycles and ride. Cycling is a wonderful family activity especially on weekends when there is a little more free time. It’s good for the body and the soul. Being outdoors together in nature and developing safety skills are both important for child growth and development too. Some communities offer cycling programs to help children enjoy safe cycling. Don’t have a bicycle and helmet? There are usually used bicycles available. Some communities offer free rental programs too which is great when the kids are young and outgrow their bicycle every season. If your child has outgrown theirs then sell it and buy a size up or trade with your neighbours. Helmets are not something you should get second hand though for safety reasons. Wear bright colours when cycling and stick to designated bicycle paths whenever possible.

Tip 4 – Walk together most days. If walking to school is not practical for your family, then plan a family walk after school. In the spring and summer months especially, a walk after dinner to the park or around your neighbourhood can be a special time to check in on how everyone is doing and enjoy each other’s company. And it adds to your physical fitness and helps with sleep too. Here’s an idea to turn it into a fun family activity – a different family member volunteers to plan the walking route and perhaps even a conversation topic. Try it. It helps develop planning and leadership skills too.

Tip 5 – Take the stairs. Whether you’re at the mall, work, or visiting a friend at their apartment, take the stairs. It rarely takes any longer than waiting for the elevator to arrive and riding up unless you’re going to the 20th floor. If that’s the case and building security allows, get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way. Count your steps!

Preventing the Fall Decline

As autumn arrives, it can be more tempting to cozy up on the couch with a warm drink and a favourite book or show, rather than get outside and move our bodies. It may also look different this year for extracurricular sports and activities due to physical distancing requirements. Overall, this could lead to difficulties achieving the Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines of 60 minutes each day of moderate to vigorous for children 5-17 and 150 minutes per week for adults. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Fall is a great time for outdoor activity as hot temperatures aren’t slowing us down. The crisp air and crunch of leaves beneath our feet can stimulate our senses in new ways. Consider a weekend hike to a favourite or new spot or find a local apple orchard where you can pick your own bushel. Take a thermos of warm soup along for a picnic. Make a game of collecting autumn-themed items from nature, like chestnuts, colourful leaves, flowers and pinecones, to make a wreath or a fall centrepiece for your table.

With potentially less activity occurring at schools due to new physical distancing requirements, prioritize family activities before or after dinner. Head out to the park for a game of football or soccer, jump on your bikes for a spin around the local trails or simply walk around the neighbourhood and smell those wood-stoves firing up.

If it is a rainy day, get movement happening inside with a family stretch, yoga or dance session. With gyms more problematic in the pandemic, try to create a space at home with exercise mats, hand weights, resistance bands, and an exercise ball easily accessible. Create a simple boot camp routine to post on the wall (e.g. 3 sets of 10 reps of push ups, crunches, walking planks, jumping squats, lunges).

By prioritizing physical activity in this and all seasons, we can support the whole family’s physical and mental health. This is especially important during this strange time of uncertainty when stress and anxiety can be easily exacerbated. So as the leaves fall, jump up and get moving!

Back to School

The end of a relaxing summer and the start back into September routine can be a stressful time for all of us. One way to manage these feelings is to try to get back into a schedule and routine. Here a few things to consider:

1. Sleep—in the summer, we can quickly get out of our usual sleep routine, staying up late and sleeping in more. In the week leading up to the start of school, try to make the usual bedtime a priority and inch closer to the wake-up time that will be required for September. We may sleep less overall in the summer with longer daylight hours, but it’s so key for optimal mental and physical health to get the appropriate hours of sleep. The Canada’s 24 Hour Movement Guidelines recommend children 5 to 13 years old get 9-11 hours of sleep and 14 to 17 year olds need 8-10 hours per night with consistent bed and wake-up times. Lack of sleep can make anxiety, irritability and difficulty concentrating worse.

2. Activity—ensuring we get the recommended amount of activity each day can set us up for optimal health, both physical and mental. It can also tire us out so we sleep better! In the summer, there may have been more time for family activities like swimming, hiking and biking, but as we head into the fall, work and school priorities may get in the way. Children 5-17 need 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous activity each day that gets their heart rate elevated. If that’s not going to happen through sports and activities, it needs to happen at home and after school is the best time to do it. Do you have space to set up a small home gym or a basketball hoop? Is there a yoga or dance class that they enjoy doing online? Or can you get out to your local park for a run or a game of catch? Creating an afterschool routine of activity will help to shake off any anxiety or stress that has accumulated through the day.

3. Screen Time—the recommendation is to limit to a maximum of 2 hours of recreational screen time per day, although many families find that restricting recreational screen time Monday-Thursday can allow for a better routine of homework, physical activity and family mealtime.

4. Eating—packing a healthy lunch is a great way to ensure kids have the energy they need to learn and be active at school. Get them involved from the earliest age to help build their food literacy and get their buy-in about what gets packed. Use the Canada’s Food Guide ( plate model to pack a balanced lunch with half coming from vegetables and fruit. Prep these the night before to save time in the morning or choose produce that comes ready-to-eat like mini-cucumbers, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, apples, pears and oranges. Include a protein source like smoked or baked tofu, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, hummus or a sandwich made with canned salmon, tuna, cooked chicken, nut or seed butter (depending on the allergen restrictions in your child’s classroom). Be sure to choose whole grain bread or crackers as the fibre and nutrients will provide more lasting energy and overall better health than refined grain products. As a change, try a hot lunch by sending a thermos of leftovers like pasta, curry or stew. Don’t forget a water bottle.

Then prioritize a family dinner where you can come together and share the positives and negatives from everyone’s day. Talking through the changes can help to alleviate the anxiety that may be building.

Dive into Summer!

What better time to try out a new water-focused activity than in the heat of summer? Our province is packed with opportunities, even if your local pool may not be open yet. Whether on the ocean, in a lake or on the river, there’s an activity for everyone:

Kayaking/Canoeing—a great family adventure! If you don’t have a boat, rent to assess everyone’s interest level. See the world from a different perspective paddling on pristine lakes or in calm ocean bays. Make it easier on younger children and novices by renting boats that hold multiple people. Don’t forget your lifejackets!

Paddleboarding—also called SUPs (Stand Up Paddleboards), these have grown exponentially popular the last few years. Rent one at the beach or invest in an inflatable one that fits in a large backpack for easy transport. Once you’ve mastered it, try doing SUP yoga! Lakes in the Okanagan are the perfect place to find calm waters:

Swimming—even with many public pools closed due to COVID-19, there’s plenty of opportunity to go swimming outdoors in a lake or the ocean. Consider investing in a thin wetsuit for longer swims. Remember most of these areas do not have lifeguards so swim in pairs and keep a close eye on children.

Surfing—if you’re heading to Tofino this summer, consider trying out surfing by taking a lesson or renting a board. You’ll also need a wetsuit, even on the hottest day, as the ocean temperature never reaches above 17C. 

Rafting/Tubing—from exhilarating white water to lazy floats, rivers throughout BC are the perfect chance to get out with the family. The Kootenays are the perfect destination to try this activity:

Snorkeling/Scuba—experience our rich marine ecosystems up close and personal on a snorkeling or scuba adventure. In Campbell River, you can even snorkel with salmon! 

Windsurfing/Kiteboarding—do you have the need for speed? Fly over the water on a windsurfer or kiteboard. Howe Sound near Squamish is a world-class destination, along with so many other coastal areas in the Lower Mainland. Visit for more information.

Waterskiing/Wakeboarding—Lake lovers unite! Just remember to always have a spotter in the boat to communicate between the driver and the person being towed. Visit to find a lake near you.

So this summer, get outside and get wet! Don’t forget your sunscreen and safety gear. For more information on watersports and activities in your community, try checking out the tourism websites, for example:

Family Cycling

The start of summer activities during a pandemic looks a little different than usual, with less vacation possibilities, summer camps and team sports. Rather than focus on what you can’t do this summer, take the opportunity to try a new activity as a family or visit a new spot close to home.

Cycling as a family can quickly become a regular pastime. The breeze blowing in your hair, the sense of freedom and adventure and a different way to see the landscape around you are just a few inspiring reasons. Not to mention sustainable transport! 

Cycling is a great form of moderate to vigorous exercise which raises our heart rates for optimum health and it can be competitive or not, to meet anyone’s activity preference. It is also an activity that can accommodate many differing abilities and health conditions. The key is to teach children to bike at a young age as it becomes harder to learn and they may become more hesitant as they get older. 

Cycling is also great for mental health, as is any form of exercise, but cycling especially because it keeps you very present. It is hard to think about what went wrong in the past or what problems could arise in the future when you’re cycling, as you need to stay focused on what you’re doing.

British Columbia has so many different cycling opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, whether on paved, gravel or forest trails. Check what is available in your community or within a day’s trip of home to find somewhere you haven’t tried before. Just a few of the best trails include:

  • Stanley Park Sea Wall (or the shorter Beaver Lake Trail for novice riders) in Vancouver
  • Vedder River Trail in Chilliwack
  • Whistler Valley Trail in Whistler
  • Kettle Valley River Trestles in the Okanagan
  • Cowichan-Shawnigan Trestle Trails in Cowichan Valley
  • Galloping Goose or the Lochside Trail near Victoria

If cycling is new to you and your family, be sure to prioritize safety, by always wearing a helmet, staying on top of bicycle maintenance, and learning the rules of the road:

If you’re ready for even more fun cycling, consider joining a club at: 

Spring…Break in those Hiking Shoes!

What a wonderful time to see all the beauty BC has to offer! Hiking is such a great way to get some fresh air, move our bodies and spend time together as a family. There are thousands of hikes in our province, for all level of hiker. So pick a destination, pack a lunch and hit the trail!

For those new to hiking, consider an easier trail without too much challenging terrain. Near Victoria, that might be around Thetis Lake, in Vancouver perhaps Pacific Spirit Park and in all of our other BC communities, check out for ideas in your area.

Always be prepared. That means at least 1 Litre of water per person, lunch or at least an energy bar (choose those with simpler ingredients and more fibre and protein than sugar) and other supplies depending on your destination and length of hike. If there’s no cell service, make sure someone knows where you’re going and you have a map and even a satellite phone. Bring an extra layer or two in case the weather changes—a toque or windbreaker can save the day! Don’t forget sunscreen—even if it’s colder or overcast, we can still be susceptible to a sunburn. And a first aid kit doesn’t hurt, especially if you really are breaking in new shoes and get a blister.

Great things to pack for lunch include cut-up veggies, oranges or apples, hard boiled eggs, steamed edamame, dried fruit and nuts (trail mix!), salmon jerky, crackers and cheese, smoked tofu cubes and if you’re really feeling special, a thermos full of soup or stew! Remember to pack out anything you pack in and keep our parks clean and wild animals safe.

If hiking is new to your family, some fun games to play on the trail are “spot it”, searching for different plants or animals, “invent a pet/restaurant/anything really” where one person describes a pet for example and everyone else comes up with a name idea for it that gets voted on or just a good ol’ fashioned sing-a-long. Making noise on the trail is a good way to ensure you don’t surprise anyone along the way and avoid the question “are we there yet?”.

So this spring break and all year round, cherish this beautiful province we live in by getting out for a hike. Make memories and traditions as a family filled with rocks, trees, lakes, rivers, the ocean and most importantly each other.

Let’s Go Girls!

We know Canadian adolescents are not active enough, with only 31% meeting Canada’s 24 Hour Movement Guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. But according to the Canadian Health Measures Survey (2016/17), adolescent girls are half as likely to meet this activity recommendation than adolescent boys. Why does this gender difference begin to occur in adolescence? Why does activity also drop off in motherhood? Why do low activity levels in girls track from adolescence into adulthood? Physical activity research is looking into exactly these issues and developing some approaches to tackle the problem.

One way to combat lower levels of activity among girls and women is with interventions that focus on self-efficacy or the belief in one’s capabilities. Helping girls build mastery experiences that give them confidence in their ability to be active can increase their self-efficacy and intention or motivation to be active.

Self-efficacy in physical activity is improved in girls when they get to choose the type and intensity of exercise. Interventions using gender-separate, girl-focused activities like dance, aerobics, martial arts and focusing on building enjoyment as well as confidence shows more success than traditional physical education or competitive sports. 

Perceptions of their home setting have an effect on adolescent girls’ confidence in their ability to be active so it’s important to create a movement-rich environment where girls live, with equipment like bicycles, balls, badminton, parks in the neighbourhood or even some exergames like Just Dance for a rainy day.

Peer and parental support also play a key role in fostering adolescent girls’ self-efficacy or confidence, not only to overcome barriers like being tired or competing priorities like homework but also from reassurance of worth or someone believing YOU CAN DO IT!

Sunday, March 8th, 2020 is International Women’s Day when we focus on celebrating women’s achievements and take action for equality. Let’s ensure we have equal levels of girls and boys meeting the activity guidelines for optimal health now and for their whole lives.

Get Merry with Movement!

The holiday season can be such a busy time of socializing and celebrating and of course, preparing to do these things! It can lead us to deprioritize being physically active in favour of sedentary screen time or a nap when we have a moment of peace. But it’s amazing how being active gives you more energy and helps to decrease your stress levels during a hectic time. Especially if you can get outside and stimulate your senses with fresh air and beautiful nature!

Here are some movement-motivating ideas:

  • LET IT SNOW: Winter activities like cross-country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, skating, sledding, igloo or fort-building, shoveling snow and even a good old snowball fight are all fantastic ways to get our heart rates and body temperature elevated!
  • PARTY GAMES: Combine celebrating with food and drinks with fun games that can be set up around the party—think bean bag toss, punch pong, hula hoops, Twister®, limbo and freeze-dance. Consider making a board or poster for guests to write their names and tally which games they’ve played to win a prize!
  • LIGHTS WALK: What better way to feel good after a great dinner then to go for a walk around the neighbourhood together and look at the festive lights. It’s always more fun when you can see your breath!
  • ACTIVE VIDEOS: On drizzly days when it’s hard to get outdoors, try a family Just Dance® party, a YouTube yoga session or Wii Ski/Snowboard®.
  • COOKING: Scratch cooking can be a fun family activity and wonderful way to engage children in food and traditions. Whether rolling out dough for holiday cookies or pies, chopping veggies or fruit for a platter, whisking or mashing and handwashing the many dishes, all require expending energy that benefits our bodies.
  • CREATE TRADITIONS: Start or keep up traditions with family or friends that are centered around a physical activity, whether renting a rink, caroling or volunteering in your neighbourhood or going on a New Year’s hike.

Aim to be active as a family each day over the holiday season to help children 5-17 achieve the recommendation of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity according to the Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines. The benefits are the best gift you can give each other!

Top Tips to Become a Physically Active Family


With the new year upon us many people are looking for ways to be more active in their day-to-day lives. However, meeting the daily physical activity recommendations laid out by Canada’s 24hr Movement Guidelines can be challenging for many, especially youth in late childhood and the teenage years. As schedules grow busier, youth become more independent, social lives blossom and social media is introduced, finding time in the day to fit in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity can seem near impossible to a young person. As such, parents can play an important role in educating, motivating and role modeling active living for their growing children.

Here are 3 tips you can try to help your family increase their daily physical activity in 2019!

Remember, Canada’s 24hr Movement Guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children and teens and 150 minutes of physical activity a week for adults.

1. Do it Together – Have Fun!

Your kids are watching you. Share your enjoyment of physical activity with them and bond by being active together:

  • Pass on knowledge of a traditional or cultural sport you know.
  • Spend quality time bowling, skating, hiking, or going for a bike ride.
  • Take the pedometer challenge with your child. Add 2,000 steps to your day and build up from there to eventually accumulate 12,000 steps per day.
  • Go to a park and play frisbee golf, kick or throw a ball or play hacky sack.
  • Try a class together! How about spin cycling, yoga, pilates, fencing, a new style of dance or group fitness class? Many community centres, fitness centres and studios have no or low-cost options for teens
  • Take an active vacation (camping, surfing, skiing, canoeing, etc…)

2. Be Outdoorsy

Being active in nature is good for the body, mind and soul! Talk with your family about planning an outdoor activity the whole family will enjoy such as visiting a community garden or local farm. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Go for a walk before or after dinner – it’s a great way to connect with your child and add extra steps to both your days.
  • Engage the family in active chores like gardening, sweeping, mowing the lawn, raking leaves or shoveling snow.
  • Hike, bike, fly a kite, walk the trail system – check out Canada Trails website for a trail near you.
  • Try orienteering or geocaching. Both are takes on outdoor scavenger hunts and involve map reading. Look them up online for an opportunity near you.
  • Identify at least one winter activity and one summer activity you want to do together as a family like snowshoeing, skating, skiing, indoor climbing gyms, or snowboarding in the winter or frisbee golf, cycling, swimming, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking in the summer.

3. Introduce Variety

Children and teens are not always aware of the many physical activities that are available close to home:

  • Encourage them to check out school teams (recreational or competitive), club teams, or recreational teams through community centres and local sport organizations. Some girls prefer to play on female only teams led by a female coach or leader.
  • If your child is not the team sport type, look together for opportunities within your community. Visit community centres, pools, arenas, courts, climbing gyms and parks. Archery, martial arts, dancing, kickboxing might be some options for individual sports.

With these new tips in mind, what sort of physical activity would you like to do with your family this weekend?

Fitting it in…Making Time for Physical Activity

It happens to all families….we’re bored, annoyed with school/work or just simply feeling tired and lazy. Or, the opposite: we’re so busy that getting enough activity just doesn’t seem possible. So, what can you do when this happens?

Canada’s 24 hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity while incorporating vigorous physical activities and muscle & bone strengthening activities 3 times per week. The guidelines also recommend several hours of structured and unstructured light physical activities per day.  Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults (18-64) recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.

Fitting in this much physical activity every day seems like a lot, but it has a ton of benefits, like:

  • Better mood, fun factor, increased energy and decreased stress
  • Better fitness, endurance, flexibility, balance and agility
  • Sharper brains – physical activity helps increase your memory and focus
  • Improved overall health

And all the minutes don’t have to be done at once – it can be smaller bouts of physical activity that are added up over the course of the day or week.

Here are five quick tips to help fit in physical activity:

  1. Plan for success. As a family think about what you want to achieve and set steps to get there.  Think about things like:
    • What are we doing that can contribute to being physically active every day?
    • What new things do we want to try? Where can we find out more about these physical activities?
    • How will we get activity in everyday? What will we do if we find it challenging?
  2. Keep track of your progress. Plans aren’t any good if you don’t keep track of them. The best way? Get the kids involved in writing down your family goals and tracking them.
  3. Set family activity times. When is everyone available? Times like after dinner or Saturday mornings. What are things we can do together? Walking/hiking, biking, swimming, free or low cost programs at local recreation centre, playgrounds etc.
  4. Start with small changes. Be patient with your progress. Making changes in life takes time. If you or your children are learning a new activity, that also takes time and practice. Small steps make it easier to get used to the changes in your life.
  5. Get together with other families. It’s a great way to make physical activity fun and it helps keep everyone on track with being active.