Wellness Blog & Clinic News

Alaskan Huskies pulling a sled.

Rural Alaskan Fitness Tips: 7 Outdoor Activities to Improve Your Health

If you’ve lived out here long enough, you probably know that living in rural Alaska can be an amazing experience. You’re surrounded by stunning natural beauty, the fresh air is abundant, and there are plenty of opportunities for adventure. However, staying active in rural Alaska can also be challenging.

The truth is, way out here in Bristol Bay, long winters, limited access to gyms, and harsh weather conditions can all make it difficult to get regular exercise.

But don’t worry! We’ve got you. There are still plenty of ways to stay active and healthy in rural Alaska. In fact, spending time outdoors is a great way to get some exercise, enjoy the fresh air, and boost your mood.

Here, we’ll explore 7 fun outdoor activities that you can enjoy in rural Alaska.

Are you or your family in need of a health checkup? Reach out to Cama’i CHC today and schedule an appointment.

Why is Staying Active Important for Health and Well-Being?

Movement is a sign of life. Without regular movement, our muscles deteriorate, and so can our mental well-being. That being said, incorporating regular movement into your routine — even in the face of a harsh climate or limited gym access — is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being.

Health Benefits of Staying Active Outdoors in Rural Alaska:

  • Harness the Power of Nature: Fresh air, sunshine, and the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness can provide a natural mood boost. This can also potentially reduce stress and anxiety while promoting feelings of happiness and peace.
  • Embrace the Seasons: Outdoor activities adapt to the seasons, from quiet hikes in summer to invigorating cross-country skiing in winter. This variety keeps exercise engaging and helps you connect with the changing landscape.
  • Boost Your Physical Health: Regular physical activity strengthens muscles and bones, improves cardiovascular health, and helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • Social Connection & Community: Outdoor activities can be enjoyed with friends and family, fostering social interaction, building a sense of community, and creating lasting memories.
  • Explore Your Backyard: Alaska’s diverse terrain offers endless possibilities for exploration. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and fishing are just a few ways to discover hidden gems in your own backyard.

A Note About Rural Health

Rural living may be a simpler way of life, but it’s not always the healthiest. The fact is, living in rural Alaska and in smaller tribal communities presents unique challenges when it comes to healthcare. While the fresh air and endless opportunities for outdoor activity can promote well-being, several factors may limit your ability to stay healthy:

Here’s a closer look at some key concerns:

  • Limited Access to Care: Rural Alaskans often face significant geographic barriers to healthcare facilities and physical activity programs. Specialists, advanced diagnostics, and even basic care can be hundreds of miles away, leading to delays in treatment and potential complications.
  • Shortage of Healthcare Providers: Attracting and retaining qualified medical professionals is a constant struggle in rural areas. This lack of social services and other personnel can create long wait times for appointments and limit the range of services available locally.
  • Higher Rates of Chronic Disease: Rural Alaska experiences higher rates of chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity compared to urban areas. Factors like limited access to healthy food options, a higher prevalence of smoking, and fewer opportunities for exercise contribute to this trend.
  • Social Determinants of Health: Social factors like poverty, unemployment, and limited access to education and exercise classes can significantly impact health measures. Rural communities often struggle with these issues, creating a cycle that perpetuates health disparities.
  • Mental Health Concerns: Unfortunately, the isolation and harsh environment of rural Alaska can also contribute to mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. Additionally, according to the Alaska Department of Health, promotion of stigma surrounding mental health and limited access to mental health professionals further exacerbate the issue.

7 Healthy Outdoor Activities for Residents of Rural Alaska

At the end of the day, out here in rural Alaska, we may have a quiet sense of resilience that goes unmatched anywhere else in the country. But we’re also left with a few limitations when it comes to dietary needs and other resources. However, with our stunning backyard, we have all the reason in the world to get outdoors and stay active — and to keep healthy so we can enjoy our special corner of the world.

1. Trail Running

You don’t have to run on a track. In fact, your feet can take you anywhere you want to go! Take your running routine off the pavement and embrace the challenge of trail running. Navigate through diverse terrains, from forested trails to scenic mountain paths. Trail running strengthens your entire body, improves balance and coordination, and allows you to experience the outdoors in a new and invigorating way.

2. Dog Sledding

If you’ve been living in rural Alaska for a while and haven’t experienced the thrill of dog sledding firsthand, you’re really missing out on a great time, and an exhilarating rush of adrenaline. Many residents are familiar with the practice, but there are also several companies that offer introductory tours where you can learn the basics of mushing and even take a sled ride pulled by a team of friendly huskies. Bottom line: it’s a great way to connect with Alaskan heritage and enjoy the winter wonderland scenery.

3. Snow Shoeing

We all know that during the winter months, we have plenty of snow on the ground. And for centuries, traveling on foot through the snow was the only way you could get anywhere. Today, snowshoeing is a great way to get some exercise in the winter and to experience what it was like to literally “walk in our ancestors’ shoes.” The truth is, it’s a relatively easy activity to learn. And it’s a great way to explore the winter landscape, get some exercise, enjoy the scenery, and see wildlife.

4. Fishing

With some of the richest waters on Earth, fishing is a popular pastime in Alaska in just about every local community. It’s a great way to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and maybe even catch some dinner! There are many different types of fish to catch in Alaska, from massive Halibut to King Salmon and various other species. So, you’re sure to find something that you’ll enjoy.

5. Kayaking

Kayaking is a great way to explore Alaska’s waterways — and we have plenty of them out here. You can kayak on lakes, rivers — or even the ocean if you’re up for an adventure. Basically, kayaking is a great way to get some exercise, enjoy the scenery, and see wildlife up close. Additionally, being near moving water allows you to soak up negative ions that increase your serotonin levels, improving mood, and allowing you to absorb more oxygen into the blood to help filter toxins.

6. Hiking

Alaska is home to some of the most incredible hiking trails in North America — and in the world. With trails for all skill levels, it should be easy for you to find a trail that’s perfect for you or your family members. Hiking is a great way to get outside, enjoy the scenery, get some needed physical activity, and connect with nature.

7. Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is another popular winter activity in many communities statewide. It’s also a great way to get some exercise and physical fitness, get the wind rushing past your face, and maybe even enjoy our winter wonderland up close. Throughout Alaska, there are groomed trails for all levels of skiers, and you can even explore ungroomed areas for a more adventurous experience.

Rely on Cama’i CHC for Your Rural Alaskan Healthcare Needs

At Cama’i Community Health Center, we understand the unique challenges faced by our local residents here in rural Alaska. Our entire team is committed to providing accessible, comprehensive, and compassionate healthcare to our community. But with dedicated healthcare professionals, we offer a range of services — from preventive care and chronic disease management to urgent care and mental health services.

At Cama’i, we’re here to ensure you receive timely and effective care. Whether you need a routine checkup, pediatric care, specialized treatment, or simply a listening ear, Cama’i CHC is here for you. We will always strive to be your partner in health and to give you the tools to live a healthy and fulfilling life here in the Bristol Bay region.

Together, we can support our rural neighbors and build a healthier future for all Alaskans. Schedule an appointment today and experience the Cama’i CHC difference.