A Christian Perspective on Including Exercise in New Year’s Resolutions
Exercise is one of the top New Year’s resolutions. Many people want to exercise more. But what are the benefits of exercise? How should a Christian view exercise? An article from the Mayo Clinic provided 7 benefits of regular exercise:
- Controls weight
- Combats health conditions and diseases (anxiety, arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, cognitive function, depression, Type 2 diabetes, falls, metabolic syndrome, and stroke)
- Improves mood (exercise stimulates various brain chemicals that can cause less anxiety, more relaxation, and happiness)
- Boosts energy (exercise delivers nutrients and oxygen to tissues and aids the cardiovascular system’s efficiency)
- Promotes better sleep
- Puts the spark back into your sex life
- Can be fun … and social!
However, according to the Center for Disease Control, only 22.9% of Americans get enough exercise (“the 2008 physical activity guidelines recommend muscle-strengthening activities at least twice weekly, with either moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week, vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 75 minutes per week, or an equivalent combination”). From a physical perspective, regular exercise has wonderful benefits, but few Americans exercise exercise!
I asked myself, if physical exercise is so important, why did God not address it in the Bible? I surveyed the Scriptures and observed that spiritual training is of more value than physical training (1 Cor 9:24-27 and 1 Tim 4:8). I wholeheartedly agree! Yet part of the silence in Scripture on admonishments to regularly exercise may stem from the time period. The Bible times occurred in an agricultural society. People walked and were naturally more physically active so there was no need to encourage physical exercise.
Today, as a result of the development of technology, we have much more sedentary lifestyles. We have cars, grocery stores, online shopping, and technology. Our time spent indoors is much more than time spent indoors during the Bible times. A given to naturally be physically active has disappeared from our culture.
So how should a Christian respond to exercise? The starting point for a Christian is that our bodies are a gift from God (Psa 139:13-16). As with any gift that we are given, we should be good stewards. If we spend time, energy, and money on the deficiencies our body incurs because of lack of physical exercise, we are not being good stewards of what God has given us. Also, God has planned good works for us to do (Eph 2:10). If we are focused on our physical ailments as a result of lack of physical exercise, then we can miss opportunities to serve others and do good works. Exercise can help us think clearer, feel better, and have more energy which could sharpen our ability to do good works.
However, if we spend too much time and energy on physical
exercise, we can put a focus on ourselves and not God. God knows how much and
what kind of exercise we should each participate in. The participation and
results of our regular exercise should point people to God and His saving power
and not to ourselves (Psa 67:2). With such spiritual and physical benefits of
exercising, a lifestyle that includes regular exercise seems wise. For 2020,
has exercise stepped up to be included in your New Year’s resolutions?
Image from Geralt, New Year’s Day New Year’s Eve Clock, Pixaby, 2019, accessed December 20, 2019, pixaby.com/illustrations/new-year-s-day-new-year-s-eve-clock-4649609/.
 Mayo Clinic Staff, “Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity,” accessed February 9, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389.
 Debra L. Blackwell and Tainya C. Clarke, “State Variation in Meeting 2008 Federal Guidelines for Both Aerobic and Muscle-strengthening Activities Through Leisure-time Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 18-64: United States, 2010-2015,” accessed February 9, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr112.pdf.