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Getting fit in Detroit

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

On a recent August night, hundreds were lined along the Detroit riverfront, stretching in unison, moving to the beat of music.

Yoga instructor Michelle Moten stood before the group and instructed the men, women and children participating to breathe deeply, feel the energy, and be in tune with their bodies. As part of the warmup, Moten told the group assembled to stretch and to use their Styrofoam glow sticks as if they were reaching to the heavens, illuminating the night sky.

After three sessions, moonlight yoga is a hit in downtown Detroit.

“I think moonlight yoga gives individuals a chance to play, plus it’s an amazing sight to see everyone with their lights,” said Michelle Moten, owner of Urban Solace Yoga studio in Detroit. “Having the glow sticks helps people to step outside out the box and feel more comfortable with the poses.”

Thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, moonlight yoga is one of several outdoor activities that are getting people revved up and active around the city of Detroit. The healthcare company partnered up with the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy to create “Live the Riverfront,” an initiative to promote a healthy lifestyle while discovering the city in a new way. Outdoor yoga, Tai Chi classes and a lunchtime walk every Wednesday are available free to the public.

Bridget Hurd, Blue Cross director of community responsibility, said she hopes the program makes a lasting impression on individuals.

“Some people remember the riverfront in its before state, but we want to let people know that a lot has changed in the city over the years,” Hurd said. “We want to encourage people to stay fit and live well while having fun seeing what the city has to offer.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends individuals to incorporate 150 minutes of physical activity into their week, which breaks down to 30 minutes of exercise each day. In an effort to encourage residents to exercise, Blue Cross created Fit Park, a free exercise park near the Dequindre Cut that opened earlier this year. It includes parallel bars, a squat press machine, cardio stepper, chest/back press and a pull-up bar. Instructional workout programs are offered throughout the year. The park is being funded by Blue Cross through a four-year, $1 million pledge to the RiverFront Conservancy.

Venus Glenn, of Detroit, uses a standing leg press at the Fit Park located at the base of the Dequindre Cut near the riverfront in Detroit. (Max Ortiz/The Detroit News)2015.

Marie Casillas of Dearborn Heights attended moonlight yoga recently with her fiancée, Kevin Nickens, to squeeze in an evening workout session and was surprised to see all of the improvements made to the Detroit riverfront.

“We just moved back here after living in California for two years and it was like seeing a completely different city,” Casillas said. “We are looking forward to working out at the Fit Park and biking through the Dequindre Cut. The riverfront has come a long way.”

Sommer Woods of Detroit frequents the riverfront every chance she can by participating in all of the classes and working out at the Fit Park.

“Being outside, compared to working indoors, really changes your frame of mind. I’m less stressed and more focused at work,” Woods said. “I feel like everyone should include at least one outdoor workout into their regimen.”

A lunchtime walk every Wednesday is part of the “Live the Riverfront” initiative between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.

Marc Pasco, communications director for the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, said people can most likely look forward to more moonlight yoga classes being added next year.

“It’s really magical being outside and feeling the breeze of the river,” Pasco said. “Physical activity paired with a world-class view is a winning combination. You can’t get any better than this.”

Moten, who teaches all of the yoga classes, said outdoor exercise can prove to be more beneficial than staying inside.

“It’s something about being outside and connecting with nature that is very peaceful and soothing to the soul. It also gives people the chance to see that Detroit is a true gem.”


Where to exercise

Wednesday Lunch Walk: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (last session this week), 600 Renaissance Center, Detroit

Yoga and Tai Chi: 6 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday, Milliken State Park and Harbor, 1900 Atwater St., Detroit

Fit Park: Located at the Woodbridge entrance to the Dequindre Cut, a greenway path that runs parallel to St. Aubin, between Mack and Woodbridge. Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

More information: Visit detroitriverfront.org/livetheriverfront