Fr. Dale Matson
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, which the Excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)
“And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice…” (BCP HE Rite I p. 336).
Perhaps my comments should be addressed first to clergy about self-care including diet and exercise because the clergy as a group are worse than the U.S. Population as a whole. There is a link between physical health and spiritual life. Taking care of the body God has given you demonstrates that you take your commitment to God seriously. Before ordination the candidate lays prostrate before the Bishop signifying with a prostrate body, a total commitment to God.
In this age of virtual experience, it is only too easy to lead a sedentary life but our bodies were not designed for this kind of life. Adam and Eve were put in the Garden of Eden to “Dress it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) Our bodies are not machines and were designed to be active with internal mechanisms that respond to activity by making us more robust. If we do nothing, we will suffer from “lot rot”.
Developmental Psychology text book data on human aging was developed on a sedentary population showing a considerable loss of physical capacity as the cohort aged. It was accurate data gathered on a skewed sample. It does not have to be this way. Although we are no longer agrarian cultures who keep our bodies sound and fit through work, almost all have the opportunity for recreational activity. For those that do, exercise is a priority. Even those with most mobility impairments can implement a modified exercise program.
Regular exercise can prevent or improve obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, back pain and osteoporosis. It can also help with psychological factors such as stress, anxiety and depression. There is also a social emotional component since group exercise tends to facilitate the formation of friendships. Additionally, there can be a meditative aspect to exercise. Much can be sorted out while swimming, bicycling, skiing, running or even weight training. Sweat comes from places a shower never reaches. Finally, there is a sense of self efficacy and discipline that comes with adopting and maintaining an exercise routine. One can even see personal progress when the rest of one’s life seems to be in the pits.
After I quit smoking over twenty five years ago I gained more than twenty pounds. Having transitioned from a blue color job to student and human services I needed to address the weight gain and attendant problems of hypertension, hypoglycemia and stress induced irregular heart rhythms.
I began a program of aerobic and isotonic exercise that I have maintained to this day. While I am heavier than I would like to be, my numbers are lower today than twenty five years ago. I have introduced more variety into my exercise program, which helps guard against overuse injuries. If you believe God is asking you to begin a program of exercise, I would check with your family physician and get an ok first. There are two resources that I have personally used and included in Wellness classes taught over a period of many years. Covert Baily has an excellent book with sophisticated techniques for the beginner called The Ultimate Fit or Fat, 2000. The other text is by aerobics guru Kenneth Cooper, Aerobics Program For Total Well-Being: Exercise, Diet , And Emotional Balance, 1985. Both books are still available and still some of the best readings on exercise.
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).