Exercise and the Christian Woman
If you are like many Christians, it is a temptation to make such a division between the spiritual and the physical that the two realms almost seem mutually exclusive. Or you may not have a spiritual emphasis, but an intellectual one. It is as if to be truly spiritual or intelligent, we must almost deny we have bodies.
This is a grave mistake and not what scripture refers to when we are told to deny the flesh. Since that statement demands some exegesis (or whatever you call bible study), it will have to wait for an addition in the bible section of my page. For now, let’s just look at the matter practically and ask these questions:
Things To Ask Ourselves
* Do I need good health to carry out my responsibilities to my family?
* If I have physical strength, can I work more effectively taking care of the elderly, the needy, or others who have need of my services?
* If I have more energy, could I additionally serve the Lord? In other words, will it prepare me for future ministry?
If You Answered Yes
Now, perhaps you feel more virtuous praying “God, help me lose weight, help me overcome fatigue, or this besetting illness” and then sitting back in faith. Or in your intellectual quest, you are willing to read book after book of self-help or the latest diet.
Now it is time to add works to your faith. Add action to your knowledge.
That is not to say those spiritual things (looking to God for help or asking to be healed) aren’t necessary, they are, but we need to add a little balance . Try to eat right, exercise, rest properly…all those things that are the attributes of moderation. And if you carefully read much of the scientific findings on good health you will see it all boils down to being moderate.
“Let your moderation be known to all men”.Philippians 4:5
A word here on what exercise won’t do. There is a scripture ( I Timothy 4:8) that states “bodily exercise profiteth little”. And that is absolutely true: it profits something, but doesn’t take the place of character and spiritual building. One look at the number of athletes with moral problems ought to illustrate that point most eloquently.
Let’s say you’re ready, convinced that exercise is going to be part of your life, what choices are out there and how will you fit them into your life? What are some choices and what considerations are there for Christian women?
- Weight training is important when you live a Western lifestyle (when was the last time you hauled water from a well?). For healthy bones and maintaining muscle strength some form of weights should be used. If you have a body type that bulks up easily, a program like The Firms cross training should work fine since it combines aerobics and light weights.
- Martial arts and workouts such as the Tae-bo type should fulfill your aerobic needs, as long as you skip some of the Oriental Philosophy involved. Actually, many forms of exercise have philosophies and sometimes religious beliefs included; if you have qualms about this just avoid that type and make your own program.
- Yoga was one form I avoided for awhile since it comes from an Eastern religion, but I found myself doing many of the exercises in my tapes. The stretches are wonderful and you may find the ones you need in one of the Wharton’s books, or in a Pilates program, as well as in many videotapes available. The flexibility that stretching gives your body is necessary, the yoga program is not. Choose according to your conscience.
- Dance gives gracefulness along with flexibility and aerobics in a fun format. Again, though, some people have reservations and should follow their choice to other forms. But for those who like this way of getting a workout, there are so many types of dance- each with its own feeling and demands. Ballet is athletic, jazzercise is fun way to get fit, bellydance is feminine and sensual, etc.
- Take yourself outdoors to witness the glory of God’s creation. Begin walking or gardening and if the nasty little creatures are bothering you find some Avon “Skin So Soft” and learn to praise the Lord for the day when there won’t be such curses!
What I’m not trying to do is make judgment calls on the forms of exercise and whether you should engage in them.
The Biblical hierarchy is always spiritual first, soul second, body third. One does not nix another, as in forgetting about the body or soul in pursuit of spiritual growth. It might help to remember how interdependent the heart, soul, and body are. How many times is physical health undermined through the damage done to a person’s heart and mind? Or vice versa?
The Bible addresses “wholeness”, and others may use the term “holistic”, but the idea is that we are not compartmentalized beings, and fragmenting our view of ourselves leads to poor health.
Exercising the body is one part of the wholeness. Not more than building good character or growing spiritually, but alongside these important goals.
There are so many ways to get the bodily exercise you need that there is no reason to wound your conscience by engaging in a type that you are disturbed about.