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At-risk teens find 'a lot of pride' in SoulCycle's new health and fitness program

According to SoulCycle, 95 percent of its pilot program's young participants report being more excited about working out.
/ Source: TODAY

As a high school senior, Kimmarie Pond had never even considered riding a bike to get fit.

"I thought since my grandmother can do it, it wasn't really helping much," she told TODAY's Jenna Wolfe.

That sentiment changed after she participated in SoulCycle's SoulScholarship program.

The program partners with the nonprofit Children's Aid Society to teach healthy lifestyle lessons to teens from New York’s outer boroughs, where healthy living isn't always discussed in schools or the community.

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During their sitdown, Wolfe asked the 17-year-old if she thought she was too old to learn about living a healthy lifestyle.

"I would say that you're never too old to learn anything," Pond replied.

Like Pond, fellow participant Micah Brown thought he'd coast through the SoulCycle classes.

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"I didn't think cycling was going to be that hard," he said. "That was wrong."

Brown said his favorite part of the program comes after they hop off the bikes.

"We take nutrition class, where we learn about alternative food choices, healthy options that encourage us to want to be more healthy,” he said.

Adapting to change, he added, is "not something I'd necessarily do, but I did it, and for me that means everything."

Early results are positive, and not just for Brown.

About one-third of current SoulScholars did not exercise before joining the program. Now, 95 percent are more excited about working out.

SoulCycle also reports participants have cut soda and juices — both of which can have high sugar content — by 46 percent.

"We could have never expected that the kids would be so passionate and committed to the program," Ashley Mashihi, a charity marking manager, told TODAY.

Small steps can mean big change for these teens. A third SoulScholar, Maria Caban, said she feels "a lot of pride" in her participation.

"When you walk out," she said, "you walk with your head up."

Follow writer Chris Serico on Twitter.