Staying healthy doesn’t happen automatically. It takes effort, and also usually involves some sacrifice, some reordering of priorities and forgoing certain things that would be enjoyable but not good for us. Long-term health is a lifelong investment, but it’s a wise one. Better to invest a little each day in strengthening our bodies than to neglect them and suffer serious health problems.
In health matters, as with many other things in life, God usually won’t do for us what we can and should do ourselves. He expects us to take care of our bodies, and He often won’t override the negative consequences when we could have made healthier choices but didn’t.
Thankfully, God has laid out some pretty straightforward rules for staying healthy. These fall into three main categories: spiritual, emotional, and physical. The key to the spiritual aspect is in staying close to God, in finding and following His plan for our lives as best we can. An important key to the emotional aspect is in maintaining a positive attitude, which reduces stress, worry, fear, and other negative emotions, all of which take a toll on our health and happiness. The physical aspect is pretty much summed up in what some health experts refer to as the three pillars of physical health: “Eat right, sleep right, and exercise right.”
“Eat right” comes down to following a few fairly simple guidelines—simple, but not always easy. Changing poor eating habits takes determination and planning, but you’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you develop an appetite for the right kinds of food and lose your appetite for the wrong ones.
“Sleep right” may sound easy enough, but many people try to operate with a sleep deficit. It’s true that some people need less sleep than others, but the pressures of modern living push many of us to try to pack more into our days by sleeping less than our bodies need to be in top health. That’s being shortsighted, because we get more out of our waking hours when we’re rested.
For people who aren’t in the habit of exercising regularly, that’s an easy one to neglect. It’s hardest to dismiss the need for sleep, because the effects of trying to go without sleep are felt immediately. On the other hand, much like the effects of a poor diet, the results of insufficient exercise can be slower in coming. Exercise helps our bodies cleanse and repair themselves. It also strengthens muscles, bones, and internal organs, boosts our immune systems, and helps us maintain an acceptable weight. There is scarcely a living cell in our bodies that doesn’t benefit from regular exercise of the right kind.
The ground rules are universal, but because age, body types, and personal preferences vary greatly, what will work best also varies from person to person. Each person’s needs also change over time and as other factors enter in. So how do you know what’s right for you? Many “authorities” offer conflicting information and advice, and sometimes a certain kind of diet or exercise is widely acclaimed for a time, but discredited later. Whose program do you follow? Only your Creator truly knows what’s best for you, and He wants to work with you toward optimum health.
Why not ask Him to show you what changes to make in your diet or exercise plan? One of the ways He has of letting you know is through your body. For example, that soreness that gets a little worse each day could be a sign of overdoing or not performing an exercise correctly.
Keeping fit is a lifestyle
The goal is to make getting proper diet, sleep, and exercise lifelong habits—not just something we do for a few days or a few weeks until we lose a few inches from our waist or drop a clothing size or two. Unless we correct the bad habits that brought on those extra inches, they will soon be back. This is why diets and exercise programs that promise quick results are largely unsuccessful: They focus on the short term instead of lifestyle choices that bring long-term changes. In some cases, it’s worth undertaking a short-term program to get healthier or lose weight, but then you need to build new long-term health habits if you want to hold on to the ground you’ve gained.
If you’re serious about switching to a healthier lifestyle, the first questions to ask are, “How can I make eating, sleeping, and exercising right my daily norms?” “What changes do I need to make in my mindset or lifestyle?” and, “What specific health program is best for me?”
Replacing poor health habits with good ones takes determination, study, and planning at first, but the payoff soon makes it self-sustaining; we feel so much better that we want to keep doing the things that make us feel that way.