Make your recreation healthier with Fresh Air Fit programs

Maureen Tisdale
Special to The Detroit News

Get out while you still can.

Out into the fresh air, that is — while you still can, without seeing your breath.

Michigan’s Fresh Air Fit program partners state parks with local fitness instructors to offer health and wellness activities in the great outdoors.

The Fresh Air Fit programs provide “another opportunity besides our trails or beaches for people to utilize our parks for health and wellness,” said Elissa Dennert,Western Michigan recreation programmer for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Our state parks are wonderful places for people to be active and healthy,” Dennert said.

While the 2-year-old program is busiest in summer, Fresh Air Fit programs do run into the fall, including hikes at Metro Detroit locations. While these are touted as being family-friendly and appropriate for all ages, you probably don’t want to bring strollers, says Stephanie Wirtz, Eastern Michigan recreation programmer for the DNR.

“They’re more of a class where you follow an instructor than just a hike,” she explains. “You’re really going to be moving and sweating.”

Those willing to drive a bit — and perhaps turn a special fitness opportunity into a lovely fall daytrip — can also check out other Fresh Air Fit programs featuring Hatha yoga; moderate intensity workouts combining cardio, balance, core and more; or higher-intensity coached running.

You’ll need the Recreation Passport required for entry into Michigan state parks and recreation areas, if you didn’t check “yes” when you renewed your license to get the Recreation Passport. They’re available to purchase for $11 at any park and valid for admission to every state park until your next vehicle plate renewal date). There is also a fee per class. Participation for most activities ranges from $5 to $8 cash per session, with the family-friendly Weekly Fitness Hikes free for those 12 and younger.

In addition to group or instructed activities, the cost often features perks such as campfires and coupons off of canoe rentals to help you stretch the outdoors experience. And word to the wise: If you try the Weekly Fitness Hike at Detroit’s own William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor (there’s one Saturday — see sidebar), you don’t need the Passport, though you’ll need to find street parking.

Those seeking — and willing to pay for — a little more hardcore training with their recreation might travel to Laingsburg to learn techniques for healthier, more efficient trail running. A $25 session includes drills and video analysis of each participant’s running style by an ultramarathoner.

Whether you’re looking for an easy hike, an intermediate workout or real training, the Fresh Air Fit programs might offer you just the excuse to have fun while doing something for your body before the fall bake sales and holidays get going.

“It allows you to get fresh air, sunshine, a beautiful location,” Dennert says. “You get to make a special memory with your fitness class.”

Maureen Tisdale is a Detroit-area freelance writer and editor.

Fresh Air Fit

Weekly Fitness Hikes

These Family Outdoor Adventure Club hikes are 3 to 4 miles, appropriate for all ages and good for first-time hikers. They make for a workout, however, so don’t plan on a casual stroll. Kids 12 and younger are free.

7-8:30 p.m. Friday and Sept. 26: Island Lake Recreation Area, 12950 E. Grand River, Brighton; meet at the Kent Lake Beach Building. $6 per hike

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sept. 27: William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, 1900 Atwater, Detroit; meet at Rivard Plaza. $5 per hike

7-8:30 p.m. Monday and Sept. 29: Maybury State Park, 20145 Beck, Northville; meet at the Concession Building, using the Eight Mile entrance just west of Beck. $6 per hike

7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday : Proud Lake Recreation Area, 3500 Wixom, Commerce Township; meet at the Trailhead Parking Lot. $6 per hike

For all hikes, call (734) 419-3699

Yoga on the Beach

This slow-paced, beginner-friendly Hatha yoga concentrates on learning traditional postures, breathing and mindfulness with an emphasis on holding poses, core strength, flexibility, balance and concentration. Registration is required at the phone number below.

10 a.m.-10:45 a.m. Sunday and Sept. 28: Bald Mountain Recreation Area, 1330 E. Greenshield, Lake Orion; meet at Lower Trout Lake beach, accessible from the M24/Lapeer Road entrance. $8 cash or $10 credit card per session

(248) 943-4261;

Trail Form Running

Learn simple steps for good-form running and trail-running techniques for healthier, more efficient trail running; instructor will record and analyze videos of participants running, run through simple drills and practice techniques on short trail sections, as well as lead a group run after. Participants will then be emailed coached videos of themselves running. High school ages and older; must have a base level of fitness. Space is limited; contact to register.

6-8 p.m. Wednesday: Sleepy Hollow State Park, 7835 E. Price, Laingsburg; meet at the beach parking lot. $25 per person

(517) 402-5730

For a complete calendar of upcoming Fresh Air Fit events, go to