Lee Haney is a former eight-time consecutive winner of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition, and a Christian whose faith has played an important role in his career. Now he's using his expertise in physical fitness to help beat America's obesity problem, and he's starting with the churches.
Haney's mission to fight obesity began when he served as the chairman to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under the Clinton administration. While speaking to Dr. David Satcher, the former U.S. Surgeon General, at Morehouse School of Medicine one day, the two began to discuss the obesity epidemic and how they could help to get it under control.
He told Satcher, “I don't know any institution in this country that...carries more influence than the church.” Haney recognizes that many people who don't have the financial resources to afford a gym membership have access to a local faith community.
In January, Haney launched the International Association of Fitness Sciences (IAFS) in Atlanta, Ga., with the goal of helping churches bring health and wellness back to their congregations and surrounding communities through his fitness programs.
The IAFS offers a Functional Training Certification (for those interested in traditional personal training), the Ultimate Bodybuilding Certification (for those who want to train competitive bodybuilders), and the Minister of Fitness certification (for group trainers and is designed with churches in mind).
“The MOF program will certify two church members (preferably one male and one female) as personal trainers and these individuals will, in turn, return to their churches and host free group exercise, healthy nutrition and personal training programs that will directly impact the rest of their congregation,” he said.
Those who haven't spent a lot of time in the gym don't need to be intimidated by the workouts, he says, because their intensity levels can be adjusted based on a person's experience and physical condition.
“These exercises mimic what happens in real life,” Haney said. "It's scaled down in such a way that it's not intimidating and the level of intensity can be increased or decreased depending upon the person.”
It's also cost effective, he says, requiring only a set of dumbbells and a medicine ball as the necessary equipment.
The IAFS has been widely recognized by organizations including the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB), The World Academy of Anti-Age Medicine (WAAAM), The International Chiropractors Association (ICA), The National Physique Committee (NPC), Judson University and the Georgia State Senate.
Haney has been a Christian since the age of nine. When he was 17-years-old, he says, he got on his knees and prayed, saying, "Lord, if you see fit to make me the best at this sport that I love so much, I'll go before the world and give Him the praise and the glory."
Since that time, he has gone on to win a number of national and international bodybuilding events. He even beat Arnold Schwarzenegger's former record of seven Mr. Olympia bodybuilding championships by one, according to BodyBuilders.com.
"I know that God gave me the blessing to use, to bring honor and glory to Him, and to use to impact the lives of people,” he said.
He later added, “It's my job to help people so that God can continue to help them live out the mission that they have...they've got to be healthy to do that.”