When listing the traits every good Christian should have, you may think of goodness, joy, peace, charity, modesty, and faith, to name a few. Physical exercise is one of the last things you would ever put on that list, if you were to think of it at all. With so many positive aspects associated with Christianity, why is it that church members, statistically speaking, tend to be more overweight than the general population? Does this mean that all Christians have spiraled out of control and given in to gluttony? Or could it simply mean that we have failed at exercising our bodies the way we should? The question then becomes, does God even approve of exercise?
The Bible says that the body is a temple. Like any temple, it needs to be maintained. It may be that today’s Christians have taken verses like I Timothy 4:8 a little too seriously. This verse says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things.” This doesn’t mean, however, that exercise holds no value. Notice how this verse doesn’t negate the importance of exercise. In fact, it acknowledges it. All this verse does it place godliness over exercise in the rank of important values. Staying in shape has plenty of value on its own.
What the Bible does warn against is vanity, and an addiction to physical exercise can take away from your overall quality of life. Vanity, however, is not directly associated with physical health. A Christian can exercise daily and stay in shape without becoming vain about it. More physical energy and better health can mean more participation in church activities, mission trips, and devotion to spiritual goals.
The Golden Rule is all about loving your neighbor as yourself, but how can you love yourself if you feel obese, physically exhausted and look in the mirror only to hate what you see? Even Paul assumed that his fellow Christians were nourishing and cherishing their bodies (Ephesians 5:28-30). Why then does modern Christianity appear to be a majority of overweight, unhappy bodies? There is nothing ungodly about preventing your own sickness, prolonging life, and producing a richer quality of life for yourself and your family. Throw out those excuses and commit to physical exercise at least three times a week, even if it’s as little as a walk around the neighborhood block. The end result will be increased productivity, which is better for your job, your family, and even the church.