Former body building champion tackles obesity crisis - CBS46 News

Former body building champion tackles obesity crisis

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A former body building champion is tackling obesity in churches across Metro Atlanta and the country.

Lee Haney was at the top of his game in the late 80s.  By 1991, he had claimed the world's top body building title, Mr. Olympia, eight times.

And still today, staying fit is a big part of his life. 

"Fitness is my passion," he said.

Haney also recognizes the seriousness of Georgia's obesity crisis, especially in low-income areas where people can't afford gym memberships.

"So how can we change this and what way can we get the message out there? And I said, 'Ah, through the church," Haney said.

Now, at New Beginnings Harvest Center Church in Fayetteville, families can come to worship and work up a sweat with a "Minister of Fitness."

Haney created the training and certification program that's cropping up in churches across the South. 

"The community has a place to come in, to learn, to get involved in health and fitness programming in a way that's cost effective.  And then, the other thing is they get the fellowship.  Families come together, they laugh, they work out and it makes for a healthier situation for the community, as well," Haney said.

Once they're certified, Ministers of Fitness return to their churches and host free exercise sessions for all ages.

"You're able to get up, you got energy to come to church, got energy to take care of the family," said Minister of Fitness Wayne Brewster.

The groups work with dumbbells and medicine balls.  They also do jumping jacks, skip-hop drills and even run in place to raise their heart rates.  "It's something different and we make it fun," Haney said.

Ministers of Fitness are also trained to give nutritional advice, which Haney said goes a long way when it comes from the pulpit.

"You know when the pastor says, 'Hey, make sure those kids eat those vegetables,' the people are going to say, 'Yes and amen.'"

So far, there are Ministers of Fitness at churches in Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, just to name a few.

Click here if you're interested in starting a program at your church.

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