May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so here at Church Comms we’ve been focusing on all things mental health for church leaders. This includes our virtual event, Thrive & Cultivate: A Mental Health Summit for Church Leaders. Our presenting partner for this event, Medi-Share, has shared this insightful article with our community, focusing on how improving our physical health can improve our mental health.
[As appeared on medishare.com]
I think I can help you get fit—at least more fit than you are right now.
Think is the operative word, because I am no fitness expert. So, you rightly ask, “Why should I take advice from this guy?”
Only because I’m a lot like you.
It’s possible I understand where you’re at in the constant uphill battle for health and fitness. This is assuming you are an average joe (or jane), like me, who has basic physical mobility but doesn’t have the time or money for a personal trainer or gym membership to help that needy body of yours get and stay fit.
My life is bounded, much like yours, by never-ending work/community demands, ever-present parenting/education needs, and over-arching spousal/home commitments. With all this and more pressing in, I have consistently come up short on the elusive…
Time and Money
Are we relating yet? These elements of pursuing fitness will always be obstacles to average folks like us who might otherwise get fit.
But let us not forget the third leg of the stool—or perhaps we should say the central supporting pillar—the one that followers of Jesus need not come up short on at all…
While I have legit reasons for lacking time and money, I can’t find any good excuse for lacking motivation, especially considering that I am one who has “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom. 8:11 NKJV) dwelling inside this mortal body.
Let’s let God’s word speak further on the matter…
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, who you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20 NKJV)
Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (1 Tim. 4:8)
We find in Jesus, through the fruit of His Spirit manifested in willing vessels, the core motivation for life and godliness. The motivation we need to be fit is a function of the fruit of the Spirit of self-control (Gal. 6:23). Without making fitness an idol, shall we agree that good stewardship of the body He has fashioned for us is at least one strong evidence of His life at work in ours?
With His discipline working from the inside out, we have a chance at overcoming the tyranny of time, the deceitfulness of money, and the laziness of low motivation. What a freedom and joy that is! Jesus would have it that way—for our well-being and His great glory.
Track with me now on some discoveries I’ve made of simple daily disciplines, born of the spiritual gift of self-control, that not only help in pursuing fitness but also in retaining the Spirit-filled motivation to become whole for life.
1. Sneakers by the bed
Here’s the secret to fitness you’ve been searching for all your life: Set out your athletic shoes the night before so that in the morning you will stumble over them, lace them up, and get moving. Excuse #1 eliminated: “I can’t find my sneakers.”
2. Every day
The only thing you’ll stay fully committed to is the thing you do every day. Commit to one physical activity per day, but make three your goal. As the positive results come in, this commitment quickly moves from a burden to a key space in your life you really hate to miss.
3. Time with the Lord
Let your bodily action be an extension of your resting time with the Lord. What starts in Bible reading and quiet prayer can expand into intercession, contemplation, and absorbing edifying sermons/teachings/commentary as you get body, soul, and spirit moving.
4. All you need is a floor
You really don’t need a gym or a trainer—or the excuse of no time or money, but you do need a flat surface—most any floor will do. A mat to roll out can really comfort your stiff form as you engage in your movement of choice. Remember, though, save energy for getting back up!
5. Stretch those aching muscles
Great news: you don’t have to work out, run, or do any of the things you fear or loathe. You just need to start stretching those legs and arms (and everything in between) a bit more than you do when you’re trying to get out of bed. No need to push it—stretching feels good and leads to bigger things.
6. No shower until…
After the sneakers secret (which you’re still marveling over), this is the discipline that will change your life: Turn on that shower and let it get steamy, but don’t let yourself get in until you’ve exercised some part of your anatomy. For me it’s pushups. For you it might be knee bends or extra stretching. The strenuousness of it matters not—the regularity matters all.
7. Find somebody you love
Find someone you love (or at least like a little bit) and go walking—every day, rain or shine. No one immediately available? You can literally walk (and talk) with the Lord, or you can call someone to chat and pray as you go. My great joy is getting that time with my lovely wife who keeps such a pace I get a workout just trying to keep up.
8. Just a little extra
While this is not about distance, time, or repetition, it’s a great feeling when you can increase those factors to boost your physical and mental well-being. It only takes a little extra effort. For example, if you’re going 1000 steps, do 50 more; going on a 15-minute ride, go 16; planning on 10 knee bends, squeeze out 11. It’s that simple. If you’ll always give that little extra, you’ll be going farther and faster than you can say, “I can’t find my sneakers!”\
9. Call the experts
Now that I’m encroaching on the territory of those who actually know how to advise you, it’s time for me to be quiet and go stretch, or something. So, the last discipline I’ll share is marked by the godly humility that says, “I really don’t know how to eat right or how to exercise properly. Who can help me?” The answer: certified personal trainers, certified health coaches, and Registered Dietitians to name a few.
Finally, consider this for yourself…
What is my health and fitness goal?
I was on a staff spiritual retreat that posed that good question. My mind immediately darted to the fitness disciplines I’ve shared. With my already established motivation for stretching, running, walking, cycling, swimming, racquetball…, I figured I had this one in the bag. But after seeking the Lord in prayer (always a good idea), I came away with a fitness goal that surprised even me…
Be able to play with my great-grandchildren.
Wisdom from above! Suddenly, I realized that family is the ultimate motivation for our best efforts at health and fitness this side of eternity. What better bunch than them to be as healthy and fit for as I can be?
Indeed, if in the dimming years I can still get on the floor and tussle with those great-grands, then all the efforts at balanced intake and consistent output will have been worth it. Even if I fall short of the goal, those dear ones yet to be born are worth my giving it a good try.
How about you?