4 Essential Spiritual Benefits of Physical Exercise5 min read
About the time my pastor stood up in front of the church to deliver his sermon, I’d start to feel sleepy. The pastor’s message was interesting, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I’d fall asleep, only to wake up when I’d feel my head fall toward my chest. Part of the problem was I was suffering from a lack of physical exercise.
Falling asleep in church was just part of the problem. There are spiritual benefits to physical exercise that go beyond staying awake during your pastor’s sermon.
The Bible says your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). If your body is the temple, then your brain may very well be the throne room. The brain is where God communicates with us. But if the temple is falling apart around the throne room, communication can break down, too.
You’re Designed to Thrive!
Regular, moderate exercise helps to keep your body-temple fit.
I used to sit a lot. I’d sit at work. After work, I’d come home and sit. It’s hard to watch TV or surf the Internet very long while standing. You can get some screen time while walking on a treadmill or exercising on any other upright aerobic machine. But it’s not as relaxing as sitting on a couch or easy-chair with your legs propped up.
Some people use studying as a reason to sit. That works well in school. It also works well if your profession requires studying. It’s also easier to read and study the Bible while sitting.
But too much sitting will eventually kill you off.
It’s easy to sit too much and exercise our body too little. The consequence is that blood settles in our legs and drains from our brain.
We get brain fog.
The control center of our brain is our frontal lobe. We need a working frontal lobe for reasoning, and deciding which impulses to act on. With a lack of physical activity, our frontal lobe looses its edge. Instinctive impulses that go against our best interests can take over and lead us down paths away from God.
Break It Up and Get Busy
After consulting with a healthcare professional, I discovered I was suffering from hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. The low blood sugar was a rebound from my blood sugar spiking after eating. My lack of exercise and poor nutrition had caused me to become prediabetic. The solution included improving my nutrition with more whole, plant-based foods and starting an exercise habit.
Developing an exercise habit takes some planning. But with a little effort and creative thinking. most people can be more active.
If you have a job that requires sitting for long periods, break it up throughout the day with 10-15 minute, brisk walks. I like to take a short walk after eating breakfast and lunch. If it’s not raining or snowing, I walk outside to get fresh air.
At the end of your day add some additional physical activity before or after dinner. If you want to spend some time sitting before bedtime, do it after you’ve spent time walking with your spouse, or children, or friends, or after spending some time tending your garden, or mowing the lawn.
For the greatest benefits, devote yourself to 30-40 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least once a day, 3-4 times a week.
The Spiritual Benefits of Physical Exercise
Keep yourself motivated knowing that you’ll be setting yourself up to gain the following spiritual benefits of regular exercise. You can become the person God designed you to be.
1) Brain power
There are numerous studies showing the benefits of exercise on the brain and its health. Exercise delivers a fresh supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. This clears the mind of stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, and anger.
A well-functioning brain improves your ability to benefit from reading the Bible, to focus in prayer, and be sensitive to the needs of those around you.
2) Physical agility
A strong healthy body helps invigorate our spiritual life. It gives us the ability to help others in ways they can’t help themselves. It aids our body in removing toxins and waste that can clog up our organs and make us slow, sick and tired.
If we resign ourselves to sitting and lying around without regular vigorous physical activity, our muscles and body organs become weak. Illness will invade the inactive body like weeds invade an untended yard. Instead of helping others, we’ll rely upon others to help us. While circumstances beyond our control may place some of us in the position of needing to be helped, it’s not a position we should choose.
3) A sense of purpose
Mowing someone else’s lawn, volunteering to clean a park, roadside or beach, or putting a fresh coat of paint on a community building are just a few ways to make ourselves useful and get exercise at the same time.
Useful physical activity gives us a sense of accomplishment and gets us outside of ourselves. It adds purpose to our existence, enhancing our sense of well-being.
4) Resistance to temptation
You’ve heard it said, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Although not found verbatim in the Bible, there’s truth to this familiar proverb.
God commanded His people to work 6 days and rest of the seventh (Exodus 20:8). This happened all the way back in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 2:3).
Lack of exercise or useful physical activity frees up time for other less virtuous pursuits. On the flip side, regular exercise and useful physical activity helps to strengthen our character and helps us to say no to temptations to do things that could draw us away from God.
Living to Thrive
I’m now exercising regularly. I walk for 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. That’s on top of my work around our hobby farm. As a result, I’m experiencing spiritual benefits to my improved health. I’m not falling asleep in church anymore. I’m wide awake. My energy level is up. My mind is alert and focused when I study and pray. There are physical benefits, too. I’ve also reversed my pre-diabetes with improved nutrition and exercise, and I’ve lost a few extra pounds that were hanging around my waist.