Exercise. For some, that word conjures dread and avoidance. For others, it brings to mind discipline and health. As Christians, how should we think about physical activity and caring for our bodies? The Bible has much to say on this topic. In this post, we’ll explore what Scripture teaches and how we can honor God through exercise.
Your body is an incredible gift from God. As His creation, you have a responsibility to care for and honor it. One key way to do that is through regular exercise. This not only keeps you healthy, but can also improve your spiritual life. Unfortunately, many Christians neglect their bodies or view them negatively. But this is unbiblical. God calls you to steward your body well for His glory.
So what does the Bible say about exercise and physical fitness? Let’s dive in and discover key principles that can motivate you to get moving! Here are four key takeaways:
1. Your body belongs to God. As His child, you are called to care for and develop the physical gift He has given you.
2. Exercise impacts your spiritual life. When you exercise, it clears your mind, reduces anxiety, and improves cognitive function. This aids your relationship with God.
3. God models exercise through work. All through Scripture, God ordains physical labor and activity. As His follower, you should imitate this discipline.
When you embrace these Biblical truths, you’ll be motivated to get off the couch and start moving for God’s glory. Now let’s explore this topic of Christianity and exercise in more detail. Get ready to start sweating!
Your Body Belongs to God
The first key principle when examining Christianity and exercise is understanding that your body was created by God. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states:
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (NKJV)
Your physical body actually belongs to the Lord. You are not your own. This is because God created you in His image for His purposes. When you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit took up residence within you. Therefore, your body is a temple, a sacred dwelling place for God’s presence.
Since your body belongs to the Lord, you have a duty to take care of it. The Bible calls you to present your body as “a living sacrifice” and a spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). Treating your body well honors the God who crafted it. Ignoring its needs or abusing it through gluttony and sloth is sinful.
This truth applies directly to exercise. When you engage in physical activity and fitness training, you are caring for the temple of the Holy Spirit. You honor God by developing the body He has given you. Exercise is an act of worship when done with the right heart motivation.
So let this be a mindset shift in how you view your physical self. Your body is not your own – it was bought at a price by Jesus Christ. Therefore, live each day to care for and improve the precious gift of your body. This includes exercising regularly to maintain optimal health and functioning. God will be pleased when you honor Him in this way.
Exercise Impacts Your Spiritual Life
A second important truth is that physical exercise and fitness have profound impacts on your spiritual life. What you do with your body directly influences your relationship with God. Let’s explore some of these connections:
Improved mood and reduced anxiety – Exercise is proven to increase feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin and dopamine. It also reduces stress hormones like cortisol. This lifts mood, relieves anxiety and makes it easier to focus during prayer and Bible study. You are able to connect with God without distraction.
Enhanced cognitive function – Exercise stimulates brain cell growth in areas like the hippocampus, improving memory and learning. This makes it easier to memorize Scripture, understand Biblical truths and recall God’s work in your life. Your mind will be sharp for taking in God’s Word.
Deepened self-control – Having discipline over your exercise routine strengthens your self-control muscle. This transfers over to spiritual disciplines like fasting, resisting temptation, taming your tongue and more. Your capacity for restraint grows.
Reduced risk of mental illnesses – Conditions like depression, OCD and addiction are proven to decline with regular exercise. This protects your mental state and allows you to remain firm in your faith. You’ll have freedom from spiritual oppression.
As you can see, working out your physical body directly benefits your inner spiritual life. God created the human being as an integrated union of body, soul and spirit. What you do to one aspect impacts the others. Make exercise a priority and watch your walk with God grow stronger on all fronts!
God Models Exercise Through Work
A third important Biblical principle around exercise is that God Himself models physical exertion through work. All throughout Scripture, God ordains disciplines like labor, farming and craftsmanship that require strength and effort. As His follower, you should imitate your Creator through regular exercise.
Go back to the beginning in Genesis chapters 1-3. God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). This was before sin and the curse, so work was not burdensome but rather fulfilling and requiring real exertion. Adam’s job involved tilling soil, tending plants and more. God crafted humans for meaningful physical activity.
Even after the Fall, God continued to prescribe work and labor as inherent to the human condition. Genesis 3:19 states that man would work “by the sweat of your brow.” Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that refusing to work means you should not eat. God wired you for a lifetime of effort and exercise through your vocations.
Look also at examples of righteous Biblical characters who demonstrate immense physical capacity through work. Jacob tended massive flocks with “all my strength” for 20 years (Genesis 31:6). Joseph and David both worked their way up from shepherds. Ruth tirelessly gathered barley for hours. Nehemiah led an ambitious construction project. Lydia was a successful merchant.
The pattern is clear – exercise through meaningful work and labor pleases God. It is part of His original design for human health and fulfillment. Thus you should incorporate similar habits into your daily routine. Don’t passively sit around in leisure. Rather model God’s example by pursuing active exercise and physical disciplines. Make movement a cornerstone of your lifestyle.
Your Physical Condition Matters
A final principle from Scripture is that your overall bodily condition matters to God. The Bible emphasizes intentionally training your body for noble purposes that align with His Kingdom. Make becoming physically fit a priority.
Paul draws an analogy between an athlete conditioning for competition and Christians training themselves in godliness:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV)
He urges Timothy to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7) and consistently models self-control over his body and appetites. Discipline and fitness are valuable.
The book of Proverbs especially focuses on pursuing physical health and strength:
- “A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn’t, and even brags about it!” (Proverbs 13:16 NLT)
- “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT)
- “My child, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV)
So make your bodily condition a priority. Develop self-control and train yourself for greater Kingdom impact. Don’t be lazy or aimless with your health. Wise investing in your fitness now will compound into greater vitality and a more fruitful life of ministry down the road.
In closing, the Bible makes a powerful case for the importance of physical exercise and caring for your body. This is part of your identity as God’s treasured creation and temple of the Holy Spirit. When you embrace exercise, you reap spiritual benefits and model your Creator’s example. So find forms of movement that you enjoy and can maintain long-term. Let God’s Word inspire you to honor Him by pursuing fitness for the rest of your life. Your body will thrive and your spirit will soar. Now go get moving for the glory of God!