Faculty of Health Sciences alumnus Christine Henderson (left) and professor Scott Lear (lear)

Podcast created by FHS alumnus, professor adds evidence to healthy living conversations

November 08, 2022

By: Sharon Mah

This past summer, Faculty of Health Sciences professor Scott Lear and FHS alumnus Christine Henderson co-launched a new podcast – How to Health – that provides practical tips and suggestions for daily activities to support people interested in pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

What sets their podcast apart from the many other healthy living offerings is a focus on facilitating interactive conversations that draw from population health and human biology, as well as lived experience. “[We are] taking evidence-based research on lifestyle medicine and translating it to something that listeners can use in their daily lives,” says Lear. Henderson adds that in the realm of healthy lifestyle podcasts, “more science-informed opinions need to be added to the conversation as a whole.”

She and Lear are well-positioned to lead these science-based discussions – Henderson has several years of experience making scientific concepts and facts accessible to general audiences, while Lear is a leading researcher on the prevention of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases, and similarly has spent years commenting about lifestyle medicine in media. Both cite renowned science educators David Suzuki and Bill Nye as their ideal role models for hosting the podcast: they want to present their understanding of the science of a given topic, translate the scientific principles and findings in ways that are engaging and accessible, and consult subject matter experts for deeper explorations of content when appropriate.

The collaboration for How to Health began a year ago when Henderson, a podcast enthusiast, discovered her former professor creating and hosting a solo podcast, Feeling Healthy with Dr. Scott Lear. She listened to every episode and enjoyed the content, but found herself thinking of approaches she would take to tweak the content and presentation.

Henderson thought about reaching out to Lear with her suggestions but admits she felt it would be a weird thing to do. “What [Lear] was doing is really awesome, but I also [felt I could] help make it better.” She shared her ideas and insights with a friend who was Lear’s former graduate student. That conversation led to an introduction between the two now co-hosts.

Lear is enthusiastic about working with Henderson on How to Health. While he enjoys sharing evidence-based information on how to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle, he observes that creating podcast episodes on his own was labour intensive, isolating, and occasionally nerve wracking, especially during interviews with subject matter experts. “[Henderson and I] have complementary skills and knowledge. It’s far easier to work on something [creative] with two enthusiastic people than [solo],” he says. He also notes that having Henderson co-creating and co-hosting the podcast is exciting for him because having a younger voice presenting the information would allow it to reach a younger audience.

Their first few episodes have already garnered interest and praise. Feedback from Henderson’s friends and acquaintances has included surprise at how early in age chronic diseases start, and how impactful a small amount of exercise can have on health. “It’s not so much that young people think they’re bulletproof,” says Henderson, “they just don’t realize that there’s such a large opportunity to [positively] impact their future health [early in life].”

Lear agrees that this information is important for everyone, not just seniors or older adults. “People sometimes think ‘everybody’ means ‘everybody else,’ not necessarily themselves.”

Although Lear and Henderson are still establishing the podcast, they are eagerly looking forward to inviting guests onto the show and exploring a broader range of topics. Future episodes will continue to explore physical health but likely will also investigate topics at the intersection of mental health and physical health and wellness, including cognition, memory, and dementia as well as neighbourhood impacts on health, nutrition controversies, getting a good night’s sleep, and more.

How to Health currently features one new episode a month and can be found on most podcast platforms, including Spotify and Google. If you have a question or an episode suggestion, you can find Henderson and Lear on Instagram: @howtohealthpodcast.