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Roar into fitness … walk around the Detroit Zoo and collect 7,000 steps or more


It’s the stereotypical New Years’ resolution – lose weight and get fit. The Detroit Zoo has a fun way to do that.

All you have to do is walk around the 125-acre grounds. Just one loop is about 7,000 steps on a Fitbit or similar device. That’s helpful news given it’s how more and more people keep track of their weight loss goals these days.

Want more steps? The zoo’s new Winter Rink allows for a more traditional winter way to burn calories. Located next to the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, it is certainly a way for skaters to be close to their fellow cold weather frolickers.

Winter Rink  is a great place for exercise. Photo by  Jennie Miller

Winter Rink is a great place for exercise.
Photo by Jennie Miller

“Exercising doesn’t have to be a chore and, in fact, it can be a fun experience,” said Ron Kagan, Detroit Zoological Society executive director and CEO. “A visit to the Detroit Zoo this winter is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and engage with wildlife – providing a healthy dose of both vitamin D and ‘Vitamin Z’.”

The most famed of the cold weather loving animals are the residents of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center. While you may not get as much exercises as the more than 80 penguins do as they explore their 325,000-gallon, 25-foot deep aquatic area, you will get another 400 steps as you enjoy the 75 degrees inside the habitat.

Gentoo penguins marching  Photo by Corydon Martin

You can see the Gentoo penguins marching
Photo by Corydon Martin

If out check out the nearby Butterfly Garden – always a balmy 75 degrees – then head to the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat, National Amphibian Conservation Center and Holden Reptile Conservation Center, suddenly you have another thousand.

There are also Bactrian camels, red pandas, tiger, lions and snow monkeys, ready to live their lives as they would in their indigenous cold climates, but for visitors to enjoy as well. You can still see zoo favorites like the rhinos and giraffes, but they’re indoors to compensate for their less than cold friendly bodies. You can fill up your reusable bottles with free, filtered water at the rhinoceros building.

Suren. the camel - running enjoys running. Photo by- Tom Roy

Suren, a Bactrian camel, enjoys running.
Photo by- Tom Roy

If it is an especially cold day, you can transport yourself to the Australian Outback – where it is currently summer – with the “Australian Outback Adventure.”

Here's a kangaroo at the "Australian Outback Adventure."  Photo by Roy Lewis

Here’s a kangaroo at the “Australian Outback Adventure.”
Photo by Roy Lewis

Walk through the Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness, the bison habitat, and bear dens and you have another 1,000 steps under your belt.

Want to see more animals that thrive in the cold? The Arctic Ring of Life boasts a habitat recreation worthy of its three arctic foxes, two polar bears and five rescued seals.

Polar bears love winter Photo by Tom Roy

Polar bears love winter
Photo by Tom Roy

If you get hungry while you stroll about the zoo, the Arctic Cafe boasts a fair amount of healthy fare. Options include humus and crudités cups, a build-your-own salad bar, a soup-and-salad combo meal, grilled chicken or vegan burgers. Gluten-free and vegan options are available.

Arctic Cafe

Arctic Café has plenty of healthy food options.

If your New Years’ resolution makes it to summer, there are plenty of more calorie burning activities ahead.  A family-friendly bicycle safari in June will allow guests to peddle past penguins and polar bears and Pure Greens, an outdoor eatery located near the Arctic Café, is open and features a 100-percent vegan menu.

Pure Greens offers Photo by Ashley Boylan

Pure Greens offers a 100 percent vegan menu in the summer
Photo by Ashley Boylan

If you chose to the take advantage of the Winter Rink, a 25-minute skate can burn up to 200 calories. It is $7.00 to skate, and $3.00 to rent skates.

Here are the rules for the rink:

  • Only approved ice skates are allowed on the rink
  • Personal skates must be sharpened by Detroit Zoo rink staff prior to skating
  • Those participating in activities assume all inherent risks and responsibilities, whether spectator or participant
  • Children under the age of 4 are not permitted to skate
  • Children under 12 must be directly supervised at all times by the adult responsible for their care
  • You must clear the ice immediately when your skate session ends
  • No shoes or boots allowed on the rink
  • No food or beverages allowed on the rink
  • Carrying children on the rink is prohibited
  • Skaters must skate with the flow of traffic
  • No more than three persons allowed to hold hands while skating
  • No fast or careless skating
  • Jumps and spins should be avoided when other skaters are near
  • No horseplay or potentially unsafe games allowed on the rink (e.g., tag or whip)
  • No rough play or use of equipment
  • Maximum capacity: 31 skaters
  • Closed at night and during rain or inclement weather

The zoo is not just a summer trip. All year long it is a place to get a decent cardio workout … usually you’re having so much fun you aren’t even aware you’re exercising.

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