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Rams Fitness Academy is teaching kids in Winston-Salem how to exercise and eat healthy

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Winston-Salem State University's Rams Fitness Academy is making a difference in the lives of 60 children from Winston-Salem.

Dr. Cynthia Williams Brown is the chairman of the university's Health, Physical Education, and Sports Studies Department.

Dr. Williams Brown also oversees the Rams Fitness Academy. She says the academy has plenty of activities, like bike riding and swimming, for the kids.

But it's playtime with a purpose.

"We want to let them know there are a variety of things they can do to stay active," Dr. Williams Brown said.

According to studies, kids are not getting enough activity and eating unhealthy foods.

Overall, 19% of American children are obese. But 26% of Latino children and 22% of African American children are overweight.

The six week Rams Fitness Academy is changing outcomes for minority children by encouraging physical fitness and making healthy food choices.

"In the very beginning, we had lots of fruits on the table. Now we have very little," Dr. Williams Brown said.

Along with physical activity and better food choices, the Rams Fitness Academy is adding another topic.

"There is a link between food insecurity and childhood obesity," Dr. Williams Brown said. "Part of our program is to fight food insecurity and introduce the children to gardening."

The kids, age 9 to 13, spend a part of their day at the Enterprise Center's large community garden. The fields are filled with items like tomatoes and eggplant.

"In the long run, helping children to understand where their food comes from," Dr. Williams Brown said. "Helping communities garden is one of the ways we can make an impact on food insecurity in our community."

Jakai Cross is a 6th grader participating in the Rams Fitness Academy. He has really enjoyed the physical activity and learning about healthy food choices.

"I don't have a problem with it. I think it's great advice," Cross said.

Kamryn Edmond is also a 6th grader. She said her bike rides will not stop when the Rams Fitness Academy ends.

"Because I enjoy riding a bike around the neighborhood," said Edmond. "My neighborhood is pretty big so it will be a lot of exercise."

The National Cycling Center in Winston-Salem provided the bikes for the campers to use.

The Rams Fitness Academy was made possible with a grant from the American Heart Association.

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