The Root's Healthy Cities: Detroit


(The Root) — Detroit does not immediately spring to mind when you think of healthy eating and active living, given recent news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that nearly 1 in 3 adults in Michigan is obese.


But a panoply of options — including a walk or run along the glistening Detroit Riverfront — exists in the Motor City for anyone inclined to work off those excess pounds. There are also plenty of places for health-conscious Detroiters to dine and pick up healthy fruits and greens to cook at home. And the city recently broke ground on a 21,000-square-foot site in Midtown for a Whole Foods Market that is set to open next year.

Here are a few options for people who want to check out what Detroit residents on the move do to stay healthy.

Where to Work Out

With its commanding skyline, the riverfront is a great place to take in some air while walking, running or biking. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy also offers classes, such as Booty Boot Camp and the Helen Phillips Health Walk for $12 each, but you have to enroll early because classes do fill up. Requests are already being accepted for 2013.

The city also boasts a series of trails that double as bike paths, including the Detroit RiverWalk, about a 5.5-mile stretch of road along the river, and the Dequindre Cut, a pathway that is below street level and runs about a mile long.

With 17 locations, the YMCA is always a terrific workout option for Detroiters. The Boll Family downtown location (1401 Broadway) has received rave reviews from residents. It boasts a family pool and lap pool as well as a gymnasium for open workouts and group exercise classes, including intermediate yoga, tai chi, body boot camp, cycling and kettlebell training. It also has a climbing wall.


In addition, the city of Detroit has scores of recreational centers where families and singles can swim, take classes such as water aerobics and learn about healthy living.

Where to Eat

In these dire economic times, food deserts and fast-food options have become the norm for residents hit hard by the recession in cities like Detroit, but there are healthy alternatives available for those who seek them out. The Raw Café (4160 Woodward Ave.) serves up delicious wraps, soups and smoothies.


Fans of the popular vegetarian restaurant Seva no longer have to travel to Ann Arbor to dive into its savory meals. A branch opened in the Motor City (66 E. Forest) earlier this year, and it offers a complete vegetarian menu and juice bar. Om Café (23136 Woodward Ave, Ferndale) serves up vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotic meals with a Mediterranean flair. The 30-year-old Inn Season Café (500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak) is known for succulent recipes like its shiitake-mushroom sauté appetizer and tasty gluten-free stir-fries.

Where to Shop

One of the best things about summer is the ability to load up on fresh fruits and greens at farmers markets, and believe it or not, there is no shortage of them in Detroit. Before it gets too cold, check out the 121-year-old Detroit Eastern Market, Birmingham Farmers Market, Joe Randazzo's Fruit and Vegetable Market and Wayne State Wednesday Farmers Market.


For natural supermarkets, check out Trader Joe's in Royal Oak, Mich.; Whole Foods Market in West Bloomfield, Mich.; and Natural Food Patch in Ferndale, Mich., which opened in 1998.

Where to Get Checked Out

Because of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance might be more accessible for the working poor. But Detroit offers help to those who still struggle with costs. The Detroit Department of Health & Wellness provides services for children, adults and seniors who are uninsured and underinsured. A few programs at the city's three health centers require a small co-pay for services. The Detroit Community Health Connection, a nonprofit community-based primary-care organization, provides affordable care to residents on a sliding fee.


While Detroit may be depicted as a desolate wasteland (see truTV's Hardcore Pawn), there are places for residents to live healthy and active lives — as long as you know where to look.

Lynette Holloway is The Root's Midwest bureau chief.

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