January 24, 2017

Body Health by God

by Rob Fischer

Some years ago, my wife and I lived and worked in Austria over a six-year period. But we came back to the States for a year-long break during that time. When we left Austria to come home for that year, we parked our car at the home of a friend there in Austria.

After that year had passed, we went back to Austria and to our friends to collect our car. We knew the car would be dirty and in need of a tune up, but we had no idea how severely its disuse would impact the car. Just sitting there for a year the car had deteriorated badly.

We had to have the car towed to the shop where it spent the next whole week. We had to have every major system worked on to get it running well again. Disuse and exposure to the elements had taken its toll on our car! We realized after the fact that the car would have been much better off if we had arranged for someone to drive it for the year we were away.

Our bodies are much like that car. Obviously, we don’t go off and leave our bodies somewhere and come back again to claim them! But in this age of modern conveniences, it is very easy to neglect our bodies and just sit there.

Many of us work desk jobs and have gone to great lengths to make our lives as easy as possible. We have subtly slipped into a sedentary lifestyle. But this inactivity takes a huge toll on our bodies. Every system in our bodies deteriorates with disuse.[1]

In fact, doctors now refer to sitting as the “new smoking.” What they have come to realize is that sitting for an average of over nine hours per day is as detrimental to our bodies as smoking![2]

God designed the human body for physical activity. In fact, anything that interferes with physical activity actually creates a hardship for our bodies.[3] Did you catch that? Sedentary living poses a hardship on our bodies and our health!

Disuse syndrome is the medical term for a state of physical inactivity caused by bed rest, immobility and/or sedentary living.[4] Disuse syndrome is a major concern in hospitals and other medical facilities, because physical activity is such a huge part of recovery and overall health. Astronauts are so concerned with disuse syndrome that they devote two-and-a-half hours per day to physical fitness while in space.[5]

If you’ve ever had a stay in the hospital—even for a minor surgery—one of the things they try to do is get you up and walking as soon as possible. Physical activity is key to healing and a healthful lifestyle.

Your Body: Use it or Lose it!

What happens when we become sedentary and inactive?[6]

  • sedentary and inactiveAfter only a short time of inactivity our muscles begin to atrophy. We lose muscle mass and strength, making us more susceptible to injury.
  • Our bones become less dense and more fragile.
  • Our joints and ligaments stiffen and become less flexible.
  • The efficiency of our heart decreases hindering the flow of blood and transport of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
  • The amount of red blood cells declines and with it the amount of oxygen our body assimilates. Blood clots and inflammation increase as a result.
  • Our hormones become less responsive and out of sync. In particular, insulin cannot do its important work of moving glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells.
  • Body temperature falls and upsets normal biorhythms. Sleep disorders become more common.
  • Lack of physical activity results in degradation of eyesight, hearing and taste.
  • Our nerves also become less active, disturbing many vital bodily functions.
  • Disuse syndrome results in a compromised immune system. One is more prone to disease with slower recoveries.
  • The kidneys and bladder deteriorate and lose vitality.
  • Digestion is disrupted causing all manner of problems with the intestinal tract.
  • The body produces fewer or no endorphins which provide a healthy mental state and more positive outlook.
  • We are likely to become obese. “Physical activity has been shown to be the single most important factor in successful weight maintenance.”[7] With obesity come diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

The Importance of Exercise for our Mental Health

The above list demonstrates the vital role physical activity plays in living a healthy lifestyle. This is true not only for our physical well-being, but also for our psychological health. Consider some of the different ways that exercise benefits our mental health:[8]

  • exercise benefits mental healthReduces stress by shedding harmful stress chemicals and producing other good chemicals that assist the brain in our response to stress.
  • Releases endorphins that make us feel happier and help give us a more positive outlook.
  • Improves our self-confidence and self-image.
  • Shores up the body against cognitive decline and stimulates the creation of new brain cells.
  • Sharpens the memory and increases our ability to learn new things.
  • Helps in the prevention and recovery of addictions as the brain releases dopamine.
  • Assists in relaxation when it’s time to rest.
  • Can play a significant role in promoting healthy relationships.

The Connection between Physical Activity and our Spiritual Health

Physical activity serves not only our bodies and mental and emotional capacities for optimum health, but also our spiritual well-being. In our spiritual health as with our physical health, inactivity brings death rather than life. Consider the action words below in terms of what God asks of us:

  • Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” – James 4:8 (ESV)[9]
  • Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 (ESV)
  • “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
  • Walk by the Spirit…live by the Spirit…keep in step with the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:16 & 25 (NIV)[10]
  • Strain toward what is ahead…press on toward the goal…for which God has called [us] in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
  • Train yourself to be godly.” – 1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
  • Flee from [evil] and pursue righteousness.” – 1 Timothy 6:11 (NIV)
  • Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” (metaphorically) – Hebrews 12:12 (NIV)

The Bible is full of other similar examples of how God uses physically active terms to move us forward in our relationship with Him. He has created us in a totally integrated fashion, so that what happens to us in the physical realm affects us mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well—and vice versa.

Over many years of following Chris, I have developed a strong link between my physical activity and what happens to me spiritually, emotionally and psychologically.

When I’m out hiking for instance, I may take the opportunity to pray and listen to the voice of God. At other times, I’ll meditate on some passage from the Bible, or a character trait, or on God’s character, or on the beauty and sheer wonder of all He has created for us to enjoy.

When I’m struggling in a relationship or with a problem, I’ll go “pound the hills” and talk it out with my heavenly Father. He always gives great wisdom and advice if we ask Him for it.

For me there’s a very close connection between the kinesthetic activity of hiking, walking, swimming, bicycling, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing and time I spend alone with God or in the company of those I love.

If we’re not moving forward, growing, active, and alive, then we’re dying. Physical activity is not the crowning piece of our health and healing, but we cannot hope to live in a healthy manner without it.

What are you doing right now to stay physically active? If you haven’t been active lately, start today. Take a walk or go for a bike ride. Go with a friend or loved one or enjoy the solitude of setting out alone. Take advantage of the numerous benefits of exercise for your health—your whole health!

 

Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.

 

[1] Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc., “The Importance of Physical Activity,” nd,http://www.dynainc.org/living/activity.
[2] JustStand.org, “Sit Less. Stand More. Start Now,” Ergotron, 2014,http://www.juststand.org/Portals/3/literature/sitstandbooklet.pdf.
[3] Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc.
[4] Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc.
[5] NASA, “Your Body in Space: Use it or Lose it,” April 9, 2009,http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/F_Your_Body_in_Space.html.
[6] Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc.
[7] Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc.
[8] Huffington Post, “13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise,” March 27, 2013,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/mental-health-benefits-exercise_n_2956099.html.
[9] The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
[10] Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 byBiblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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