Isn’t Exercise An Optional Activity?

 
Written by Kim, Contributing Writer
 
**note from Rachel: Please meet Kim, another new monthly contributor. Kim’s passions are not only her family but educating the public about healthy eating and living.  
In all areas of health I like to begin with the question, “Was this part of God’s original optimal design for us?”  I want to make sure that anything I’ve added to my life lines up with the God’s word.  
 
Exercise is no exception. 
 
John and I spent the majority of our life as couch potatoes, so I wanted to make sure if I was going to dedicate a portion of each day to this activity, it had to be something God agreed was a good investment of time.  I became aware that even in the creation story God did not create our bodies to be sedentary.  
 
In Genesis 1:26 it says that God created man to rule over his creation.  I don’t really know what this entailed but I’m sure it wasn’t a desk job.  After the fall, God made it clear that providing food for ourselves would involve some physical labor, even some perspiration.  “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:19). 
 
How many of you are breaking a sweat pushing that cart through the grocery store aisles?  Furthermore, we see that Christ was a physically active man- walking almost everywhere, sometimes for days at a time. 
So, that may seem like bad news for those of us who wanted to get out of it, but it looks like in God’s original plan physical activity wasn’t just an optional hobby.  If we have a job that does not require much physical activity, we probably need to plan some exercise into our lives if we want to have the optimum health that God desires for us. 
 
Pretty much anyone will tell you that diet and exercise are essential to good health.  The truth is, we can’t overcome a poor diet with exercise and we also can’t eat well enough to overcome the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.  God’s original plan included eating well and being active
Now I could go on and on with encouragements and tips on how to enjoyably incorporate exercise as a natural part of your lifestyle, but space doesn’t allow.  
 
But I do want to share enough thoughts and encouragements that you will be able to see how physical activity could become a regular part of your lifestyle.  First of all, let’s dispel some of the common myths, negative attitudes and preconceived notions regarding exercise.  
 
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Let’s start with a little historical background.  In the not-so-distant past, simply living our daily lives required a good deal of physical activity- in growing food to eat, bringing in water, washing clothes, chopping wood, getting from place to place and many other day-to-day activities.  
 
In a sense, we now have the “disadvantage” of living in an age of modern convenience in which we can exert minimal effort in travel, food production and preparation, housework, and other routine responsibilities.  We can take advantage of these conveniences, but we need to make up for the lost physical work with some planned activity.  
 
Doesn’t it seem a little odd that we drive to do a local errand, then get home and onto our treadmill?  Or that we take the elevator while at work and then use a stair stepper at the gym?  We use machines that provide convenience and time-saving, and then have to intentionally use other machines to prevent us from getting out of shape.  And isn’t it super sad that we exert all this physical effort, yet get no actual work done (unlike in the olden days)?  Crazy, huh?
Okay- that brings us to modern day times.  What are some common fitness prescriptions?  “45-60 minutes of aerobic activity at least 5-6 times per week”.  That’s a little intimidating and discouraging for most.  
 
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Or you might join a gym where a trainer pushes you to increase your intensity and duration of activity.  You might get tired, discouraged and drop out.  These are the usual disheartening experiences most people relate to exercise. It’s no wonder so many of us conclude it’s just not for us. (I remember one time my sister and I decided we were going to start exercising, went for a rigorous walk and our legs broke out from the increased circulation. We concluded we were allergic to exercise and didn’t need to do that anymore!).  
 
Most people quickly get discouraged and lose interest in the common externally-driven exercise motivation plans.  When you’re doing something distasteful to achieve a temporary goal, it’s easy to give up (similar to being on a traditional diet).
The key to success in developing a lifestyle routine of physical activity is to find those activities which would be an enjoyable fit for you, to begin at a comfortable rate and length of time and to allow it to grow into a natural part of your lifestyle.  
 
After the activity you should feel good and rejuvenated (body and mind), not drained, exhausted and dreading your next “workout time”.  Being able to enjoy your physical activity outside gives you the added benefits of fresh air and sunshine. But it is really a matter of finding what is a “fit” for you.  
download printable
 
Refer to the above Exercise Preferences and Motivations printable to help you discern what your exercise style might be. You may have concluded that exercise isn’t for you when you simply haven’t found your “fit” yet. Use this information to help you develop a plan to begin some activity today- no matter how small. 
The whole adage of “no pain, no gain” is just a plain bad one.  We see it reported again and again that strenuous exercise is harmful.  If we “push ourselves” with exercise (too strenuous or too long) we’ll get injured, discouraged and/or quit.  
 
The moral of the fable of the tortoise and the hare is a good one to keep in mind’ “Slow and steady wins the race”.  Not that we’re running a race, but we will stick with an activity longer if we begin comfortably and only increase the time and amount as our body is ready for it.  Moderate exercise not only builds you physically, but also makes you feel better and gives your immune system a boost too!
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Here’s an idea- simply enjoy the experience of moving your body!  Go outside for a walk in the fresh air for 15 minutes.  Think about your feet as they contact the ground, notice your arms swinging.  Take in nice, smooth breaths through your nose.  Speed up or slow down as you feel comfortable.  
 
Paying attention to our body lets us truly participate in and enjoy the activity as well as appropriately increase or decrease the rate.  You will enjoy your activity so much more when you think about your body and its motion, your breathing, and the surroundings you are for a moment participating in.  
 
You shouldn’t really have to distract yourself in order to get through the “drudgery” of exercise (I remember having this mindset when I forced myself to use a piece of exercise equipment we had purchased).  If that is your mindset, you probably need to find an activity that better suits you, because continuing with that activity is not going to build health in the same way an enjoyable activity would.  
 
And don’t stress yourself out with time/endurance prescriptions and rigid goal plans (unless you find them motivating in a positive way- there are a few of you out there, aren’t there?!).  Your goal is to develop a lifestyle habit of enjoyable physical activity, not achieve a certain weight/fitness goal by next month.  This usually is best encouraged in a gradual, comfortable way.  
 
And remember to “listen to your body” and be responsive to your energy levels.  But, at the same time, don’t let your body (or maybe it’s your mind) talk you out of activity day after day.  Even if I’m feeling a little under the weather, I make sure I at least bounce gently on a rebounder for up to 10 minutes, knowing that my system needs that encouragement- either in detoxifying or in boosting those “feel good” chemicals in the brain.  
 
I can honestly say that I’ve never felt worse when I’ve taken a little time to give my body some activity- oftentimes I feel it gives me just the boost of energy and feeling of well-being I needed.  If I’ve listened to some good Christian music while exercising, I’ve renewed my mind with some uplifting truths at the same time.
So, if you haven’t yet incorporated some exercise into your life, I want to encourage you to get out today and at the bare minimum, take at least a 10-20 minute walk.  Begin small and aim to exercise more days than not. With this kind of consistent, pleasant experience, physical activity can develop into an enjoyable habit.  
 
Consider it a non-negotiable (like brushing your teeth) and allow it to become a regular, essential, enjoyable part of your day.
 
Do you think exercise is optional?
About Kim

Kim has spent over 14 years working with whole foods to develop recipes that satisfy a variety of needs, in a tasty, enjoyable and affordable way. Her recipes are free of animal products, wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, yeast, sugar and other common problematic foods.  
 
She currently has seven diet and health books in print that offer the practical information and recipes everyone from beginners to raw-foodists to those with extensive food allergies need to make healthy eating and living a do-able lifestyle. For more information visit her websites: Simply Natural Health and Good and Easy Eats.

Comments

  1. Kim I absolutely do not feel exercise is optional. I believe God created these amazing bodies of ours with 650 muscles for a reason – we are meant to move them daily! That was a wonderful post.

  2. And don’t we feel so much better when we’re moving them?!

  3. Thank you for this encouragement! I know it in my head but don’t always do it.. praise God for this post! Getting moving full-time tomorrow! 🙂

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