As a personal trainer for over 12 years now, I often get into conversations with people about exercise. Not surprising, I know. People tell me all the time that they don’t have the energy or motivation to work out. I understand. I have a 9-month old that keeps me busy and exhausted all the time, not to mention my two older children that are challenges wrapped up as gifts from God :)
However, despite our feeling of tiredness or lack of motivation, working out is what usually clears the brain, reduces stress, and gives people so much energy! The key is to just get started, right now, wherever you’re at! Regular exercise also lowers blood pressure, manages weight, and releases endorphins (natural feel-good chemicals in the brain), among a list of many, many other benefits.
I was reading a list of benefits from taking XYZ vitamins and I couldn’t find ONE THING on the list that wasn’t also a positive side effect of exercise!!
When it comes to encouraging people to find their happy movement (exercise they enjoy), I discover that in order to get anything to stick, we have to look at our motivations and dig deep. Why do I want to exercise? Why don’t I want to exercise? What do I believe to be true about my body image? What do I believe about discipline?
Brainstorm a few spiritual disciplines.
You may have thought of such things as prayer, reading scripture, going to church, fasting, and the like.
Are any of these things required to come into a right relationship with Jesus Christ? No. God says we are saved by grace alone—not by what we do but by what Jesus did on the cross for us.
In addition to having been saved by grace, we have a beautiful opportunity to live in relationship with God in all areas of our lives. Asking God into your health journey (mind, body, and spirit) is the first step to allowing God to speak to you and walk with you regarding your health.
The next step is to listen to where he’s leading you and then take action! Ultimately, this leads to a more abundant life. It is out of our lavish love for God that we devote our lives to him and discipline ourselves in order to trust God, grow in our faith, and bear fruit.
This is also true of our physical disciplines. Must we exercise to survive? No. Will we die if we don’t strengthen our muscles? No.
In 1 Corinthians 9:27, the apostle Paul says, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
Why would Paul give this encouragement, and why do so many of us take our physical health for granted? Just as prayer is a discipline that brings us closer to God, taking care of our physical bodies may also be an act of worship and bring us closer to God. We bear the image of God. How we take care of our physical bodies looks different to each person, but we can all do our part to care for the body we’ve been given.
Physical and Spiritual Health are Intricately Connected
Do you think your physical health is important for vibrant spiritual health? Why?
God sees how we handle all the details of our lives. Luke 16:10 states: “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Let’s be excellent stewards of our physical health. With this revelation in mind, let’s look at a few suggestions on how to best care for our physical health.
The minimum guidelines for physical exercise are as follows:
According to the American Heart Association, heart attack and stroke are the number-one and number-five killers in America. Below are the 2015 guidelines for the minimum exercise recommendation.
For Overall Cardiovascular Health:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes
• At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
• Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
• An average of 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week
These guidelines are not in place to make us miserable—quite the opposite, actually. Following these guidelines can keep our hearts healthy, our lungs and arteries strong, our bones and joints mobile, and our energy levels high.
If you’re currently inactive, start small
I have not always been fit and healthy. In high school, I decided to change course from a three-season athlete to a theater performer. This dramatically reduced my activity level, and I gained weight. If you had asked my friends, they would not have classified me as overweight, but you can imagine the surprise when I lost twenty pounds in college from a consistent running routine! I did not start out running miles and miles per day. I made a commitment to get to the gym every day for at least three minutes. Yes, just three minutes. I heard a motivational speaker say that anyone can make time for three minutes per day for something important. I was working full time to pay for college and taking a substantial course load to graduate early, but I could spare three minutes.
Three minutes per day of exercise for one semester: This simple commitment developed into a habit and a discipline for physical fitness that led to my unforeseen weight loss, rejuvenated interest in health, and passion for helping others find their start to a lifelong journey of health and whole-person wellness. Back then, running was my happy movement. Today, my happy movement is biking, kayaking, lifting weights, and playing recreational volleyball. It’s ok if your happy movement is different today than it used to be.
The big question is—what should you do for your happy movement?
The big answer is—whatever exercise you’ll do! Find your happy movement, something you enjoy (or at least tolerate), and do it. Nike hit it right on the head with their slogan: Just Do It.
Play a sport
Mix it up!
The key to creating lifelong healthy habits is to move your body every day. Make your movements challenging, but achievable. If you have the resources, spend some time with a fitness professional to learn how to work out properly and how to stretch your muscles. The exercises in my book, Living Wellness for Growth Groups, will help you understand proper form and get a full body workout. Use the instructions given in the book to exercise safely.
Tips to Get Started:
1. Start right now. Do not wait one more minute. Pick something you enjoy and can do safely (walk) and do it right now. Are you injured? In a wheelchair? You can still sit and strengthen your upper body.
2. Get support. Find a walking buddy, swimming pal, or fellow lifter. Encourage your partner during this season and ask for accountability with your happy movement in return. Get strong together. Get your kids involved with your physical fitness, or get active while they’re in activities. Walk laps at the baseball practice or hit the gym while they have dance. Avoid using other people’s schedules as an excuse for you to be inactive.
3. Invite God into your physical health journey.
Pray with me:
Dear God, thank you for the gift of my body. Please give me the desire to honor you with my physical health. Forgive me for not taking care of my physical body in the past. Please show me how you desire me to honor you with my choices and my time.
Blessings on your health journey!
Included excerpts from Living Wellness for Growth Groups (2017, pp. 30-33)
© 2018 Living Wellness, LLC Revolutionizing health, one community at a time.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.