Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit,1 and God has commissioned us to care for them well and faithfully. Jesus paid the ultimate price to make us His own, so we should show our gratitude by investing in our health. Taking good care of our bodies and health is a natural outgrowth of loving ourselves and appreciating the gift of life that God has given to us.
You might be tempted to feel that you can’t afford to tune in to these tips, either because it costs too much or takes too long. I feel that way sometimes too. But ultimately, working to stay in good health can prevent a breakdown in your health, which could be far more disruptive and costly.
Let’s look at five starting points for good health and fitness. Of course, there will always be differing opinions when it comes to health matters, and each of us must make our own decisions based on what works for us and our body, taking into account our particular circumstances and health needs.
Number 1. Make healthy choices.
One of the keys to maintaining health and fitness is the food you eat. There have been many popular diets and eating philosophies over the years, but with additional research, some of the previous recommendations for healthy eating have been reconsidered. For example, there used to be a lot of emphasis on low-fat diets, which resulted in people eating a lot more sugar and processed foods and grains (such as bread, pasta, etc.), with poor overall results.
Generally speaking, if you want to make well-balanced food choices, you would:
Number 2. Maintain proper weight.
If you’re someone who struggles with excessive weight or obesity, then you know it’s a tough battle to fight. Being overweight is a far-reaching problem. According to a BBC report, worldwide obesity has quadrupled since 1980.2
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis—a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints), and some types of cancer.
Excess weight and obesity are largely preventable. Reversing these conditions isn’t easy, but by God’s grace and with His help, it is possible. The Bible promises, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”3
Number 3. Exercise regularly.
Exercise is essential to keeping your weight at a healthy level—but it also builds health in many other ways. It increases energy; improves muscular strength, tone, and endurance; makes you feel happier; reduces stress, anxiety, and depression; helps you look and feel younger; decreases body fat and strengthens bones; sharpens focus, increases productivity, and stimulates creativity; promotes restful sleep; enhances intimacy and relationships; enhances immune function; increases joint mobility; improves posture; and treats and prevents more than 40 chronic diseases.4 The key is to be active, to move, and to move often. “According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting is now the new smoking. Sitting too long, up to three or four hours at a time, is now equivalent to smoking up to a pack and a half of cigarettes a DAY.”5
Number 4. Minimize stress.
Stress enters our lives as a result of many different concerns, such as sickness, chronic pain, financial problems, work matters, relationship conflicts, parenting issues, and much more. If untreated, consistently high stress could become a chronic condition, which can result in serious health problems including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can even contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity, or exacerbate existing illnesses.6 There are many ways to reduce the stress in our lives, and we each need to find what works for us personally. I often feel stressed when I’ve overextended myself, when I’m too busy, or if I’ve taken on too many appointments and obligations. When that happens, I try to make a conscious effort to slow down, to rest and relax more, to take more time with God. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”7
Number 5. Enjoy life, be happy, and have a positive outlook!
Here is some interesting insight from an article titled “Happiness Is Key to Longer Life”:
I’m going to close with a few lines from the first part of Rick Warren’s book, The Daniel Plan:
1. See 1 Corinthians 3:16–17.
2. “Obesity quadruples to nearly one billion in developing world,” BBC News, 3 January 2014.
3. Galatians 6:9 ESV
4. This list is based on Rick Warren’s book, The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 41.
5. Ibid., 163, based on the following article: James Vlashos, “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?“ The New York Times, April 14, 2011.
6. Alexandra Sifferlin, “The Most Stressed-Out Generation? Young Adults,” TIME, Feb. 7, 2013.
7. Psalm 55:22 ESV
8. “Happiness is key to longer life,” AFP, August 14, 2008.
9. Warren, The Daniel Plan, 33–34,52.