Do you have vibrant radiant health? Perhaps you are handicapped or sick, or have some other physical ailment that prevents you from truly enjoying life. Perhaps you are young, enjoying the blessing of youthful vitality and dynamism. Or are you feeling lethargic, tired and physically uninspired? Whatever your current state of physical health, this article is meant for you! From the most physically fit, to those anchored by health trials, God wants us to understand deeply the importance of a key law of health: exercise.
This article will give you seven reasons why exercise is so important to God, plus demonstrate how it can help you live a happier, healthier life. While some of us may not be able to readily apply some of the practical elements included in this article, hopefully it can help us all to become more effective teachers in the World Tomorrow.
The Need for Exercise
Perhaps you have read 1 Timothy 4:8, which states, “For bodily exercise profiteth little ….” Sometimes this verse is quoted as an argument against exercise. The correct rendering of this verse, however, is “For bodily exercise profits for a little time.” The Apostle Paul is really saying that exercise indeed profits, but compared to godliness, its benefits are temporary. Now that is a wonderfully positive statement about both godliness and exercise! Certainly bodily exercise indeed profits for a little time—the time we are physical human beings! The Apostle John wrote in 3 John 2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
Obesity is the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States and is increasingly linked with diabetes. It is also a major cause of heart attacks. In the United States, 64 percent of Americans, or 127 million, are overweight.
Tommy Thompson of the Department of Health and Human Resources said, “Americans need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally killing us” (emphasis added throughout). According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, fully 400,000 deaths, or 17 percent of all deaths, in the United States in 2000 were related to poor health and physical inactivity. Only tobacco use killed more Americans. In Canada, Australia and Britain the story is the same: Much of their populations are overweight. According to the Economist magazine, as of 2003 there were 300 million overweight people worldwide—roughly the populations of Canada, Australia, South Africa, Britain, France and Germany combined! Truly, obesity is a global pandemic, one which we all, young and old, can struggle with.
Alarmingly though, all the diets, nutrition systems, and exercise plans being splashed across television screens proclaiming the latest quick slim fads are not solving the problem! Most fail to equip the general public with the right knowledge of how to live in good health. Thankfully, God has given His people this knowledge. Each of us has a wonderful opportunity to reverse the horrible health trends plaguing society.
Anaerobic and aerobic are the two basics types of exercises. Generally, anaerobic activities build muscles, and aerobic activities strengthen the cardiovascular system. A typical anaerobic exercise is weight lifting, as there is typically little continuous deep breathing (though anaerobic activity can be done at such a rapid pace so to encourage this type of breathing). One of the benefits of weight-bearing exercise is the fact that it strengthens bones, something women who tend to lose a lot of calcium (osteoporosis) should be mindful of. But it is aerobic activity that Herbert W. Armstrong strongly encouraged, because this kind of exercise is vital in building and maintaining our cardiovascular system—our heart, lungs and liver. Typical aerobic exercises would be jogging and brisk walking.
Just how important is aerobic exercise to your health? Consider how hard it is for you to repeatedly open and close your hand. By repeatedly clenching, opening, clenching, and opening our fist, we can simulate the repetitive action of our heart. However, our heart doesn’t tire anywhere near as easily as our hand does. Our heart contracts and dilates at an average rate of 72 times a minute, 100,000 times a day, and close to 40 million times a year! No wonder King David said, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made …” (Psalm 139:14).
Aerobic activity strengthens your heart, making it vital to your ongoing health. The heart, the most important life-sustaining organ, needs aerobic exercise to operate at peak performance. Adult Physical Fitness notes that the “needs of the human body have not changed. Muscles are meant to be used. When they are not used, or not used enough, they deteriorate.” Indeed, inaction demands a penalty. Eventually, if we don’t exercise, our heart becomes smaller and less efficient, pumping less blood; meanwhile, the bloodstream slows, delivers less oxygen to tissues, and eliminates less waste.
Exercise can turn fat into fitness, fatigue into vitality, and worry about health into abundant, joy-filled living! For these reasons, and so many more, aerobic exercise is vital to our ongoing well-being. Almost immediately, the volume of our blood will increase. Also, reviving tired blood, our blood flow will increase by about eight to 10 times. Fatty substances in our blood (cholesterol and triglycerides) will be reduced, lessening danger of arterial blockage. Plus, our cells will convert food and oxygen into energy more rapidly. Exercise will also firm up muscles, improve posture, contribute to a better physical appearance, reduce minor aches and pains, headaches, stiffness, and help make joints more flexible. Exercise will also increase the efficient use of energy in physical and mental tasks. As the ymca says, exercise may not add years to your life, but it may add life to your years.
But what exercises are most beneficial for us, and how should we do them? Before we answer this question, consider the following. If you have any questions about whether you should exercise, it may be wise to get a physical check-up to determine how much and what type of exercise would be suitable for you—especially if you’re handicapped or ill. The gospel writer Luke was a physician and would have been well-versed on the natural, physical laws of God that govern the human body (Colossians 4:14).
Remember, if we have broken God’s physical laws—which is physical sin—and become sick, we should obey the command in James 5:14 to call upon a minister to be anointed and God will heal the sickness. Exercise is not a replacement for God forgiving physical sin. Nevertheless, even if we have been anointed, consider the benefits of exercise in improving your overall health. Physicians have found that in many cases, exercise helps to combat many chronic problems, such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, emphysema, and other physical ailments.
Other points to consider before starting any type of exercise program would be to start gradually; to begin with a warm-up period and end with a cool-off period; to stretch and relax—two often overlooked but vital components to building flexibility; to exercise daily or at least several times a week. The general rule of thumb is 20 to 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. However, if you need, work up to this kind of pace.
Regarding what kind of exercise would be beneficial, keep in mind that anything is better than nothing. If all we can do is walk briskly, that is fantastic. If we can add more, or strive for more, then consider doing so as long as you don’t place your health at risk by going to extremes. Generally, though, there are three types of exercises to keep in mind: warm-up, conditioning and circulatory exercises.
Warm-up exercises stretch and limber up muscles while also speeding up the action of the heart and lungs. They also prepare the body for greater exertion and reduce the possibility of unnecessary strain. Bends and stretches, knee lifts, arm circles, head and shoulder curls and ankle stretches are just a few of the exercises included in this category. These need not be done for too long.
Toe touches, sprinting, sitting stretches, push-ups and sit-ups are conditioning exercises. Conditioning exercises produce contractions of the large muscle groups for relatively longer periods than the warm-up exercises. Both the warm-up and conditioning exercises are generally considered anaerobic.
Finally, circulatory exercises stimulate and strengthen the circulatory (blood flow) and respiratory (breathing) systems. Walking, jumping rope, jog-walking, jogging and running are all types of exercises within this group. Cycling and swimming are also good choices.
Alternatively, if we have not been doing any exercises and would rather ease into the habit, consider modifying your daily activities. For instance, instead of parking your car closest to the door at work or the grocery store, park it further away and walk that distance. Try taking the stairs at work rather than the elevator, or hand deliver a number of messages around the office rather than communicating only by e-mail and phone. Also, consider doing a little gardening around your home, or pick weeds out of your lawn. Each can add a little more exercise to your daily routine.
Once in an exercise mind-frame, consider using a variety of exercises and activities to avoid getting bored and losing motivation. The biggest challenge you will face is maintaining the ambition to continue an exercise program! A few years ago, Parade magazine said that more than half of all people who start an exercise program quit within six to 12 months! However, the Apostle Paul encouraged us all to “not be weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9). Parade magazine recommended using the following steps to sustain motivation: 1) set rational goals; 2) go for variety; 3) track your progress (from time to time, measure your waistline, chest, arms to monitor your improvement); 4) seek support (exercise with a friend); 5) devise a back-up plan for when conditions don’t work out for your primary exercise.
Most of all, though, God’s perspective on health and the importance He places on exercise should be our biggest motivator! Here are seven reasons why God wants us, if we can, to be physically fit.
For Ourselves and Physical Family
Without our health, it is difficult to do much else. Good health is the third law outlined in Mr. Armstrong’s booklet The Seven Laws of Success. It states, “If the bellows we call lungs do not keep inhaling and exhaling the oxygen-containing air, man won’t live to achieve any goal.”
To Set the Right Example
Children learn best by watching our example. The Plain Truth About Child Rearing states that the two most powerful ways our children learn are association and imitation. Too many parents teach very impressionable children to “Do as I say, not as I do.” What kind of example do we set, not only in our homes, but also within the Church of God?
Realize too that, as we get older, it takes more effort to exercise. Children and other responsibilities can easily crowd it out.
To Prepare for the Future
Soon, we will be teaching the principles of healthful living to billions in the wonderful World Tomorrow. Just as Mr. Armstrong taught us about health, we’ll teach those under us what we have learned. For those of us who are sick or physically unable to exercise today, the future is where all our preparation to teach God’s principles of healthful living will really count.
When we get sick, we should go to God for healing. The two conditions for healing are faith and obedience. God is bound to heal us if we fulfill these two conditions. Follow God’s instructions and ask one of God’s ministers for anointing (James 5:14).
Sickness is a result of physical sin, and we need to be coming out of spiritual and physical sin. The broken bread of the Passover memorial symbolizes Christ’s broken body, which was beaten for our healing (Isaiah 53:5). We must be examining ourselves against the perfect example of Christ to find areas where we fall short (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
It is impossible to break sin’s hold on us by ourselves. But with God’s Holy Spirit flowing in our lives, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26). God will be more eager to heal us if we are trying our best. We simply can’t continue in physical sin once it is brought to our attention. Of course, it takes time to overcome old habits.
For the Work
If we have our health, we can serve God’s Work more fully. Early on, Mr. Armstrong knew he couldn’t serve God as successfully without effervescent health. He wrote in the article, “What Are the Secrets of My Youthful Vitality, Energy, Drive and Long Life?”: “I make it part of my education to study the factors that maintain good health” (Worldwide News, Nov. 15, 1982). Dying in his 94th year, Mr. Armstrong didn’t believe in retirement. He did his most productive work in the last decade of his life. We, too, can improve our productivity in God’s Work if we educate ourselves and study the factors that maintain good health—and then put them into practice.
To Follow Christ
1 Peter 2:21 states, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” By obeying the health laws He set in motion, Christ set a wonderful example that we are commanded to follow. He was an energetic, dynamic leader and would not have held up as well as He did under the extreme punishment at the end of His life had He not observed every physical health law.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Your body is the temple of God’s Holy Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 6:16, the Apostle Paul says, “… for ye are the temple of the living God”—if God’s Holy Spirit dwells within you.
Consider how much time and effort God put into every detail of ancient Israel’s physical tabernacle (Exodus 25-27). The symbolism between this physical tabernacle and us as temples for God’s Holy Spirit is breathtaking. If we deeply consider the detail God put into the edifices under Moses and Solomon, the importance of us maintaining the best possible physical temple for God becomes clear. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-21 we are told that we have all been “bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body … which [is] God’s.” Following God’s physical laws is a wonderful way we can glorify God through our body.
As much as possible, God wants us all to be healthy and physically fit! Again, God inspired the Apostle John to write, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health …” (3 John 2).
In this most degenerate age of mankind, let’s give more consideration than ever to this vital law of radiant health, and reap the benefits today so we can most effectively teach it in the World Tomorrow.