“You need to exercise to stay healthy!” A few of you probably just cheered; many of you probably groaned.
It’s tough to find the time and energy in your already busy life to keep yourself in shape. What’s more, it’s easy to find excuses for not exercising — after all, it’s not like God’s going to ask how many steps you got in each day to determine if you’re worthy of heaven!
But regular exercise really is something we all should aspire to. Here are a few reasons why.
1. You are body and soul, not a soul trapped in a body
As Catholics, we know that nothing matters more than our spiritual health. But don’t be tempted to think that your soul is the real you and your body is merely a shell! Although many ideologies say that we’re souls trapped in bodies, we believe that we are both soul AND body.
At death, it is true that our souls leave our bodies. But this separation is not meant to last forever. At the end of time, there will be a general resurrection of all bodies where the happy reunion of body and soul will happen.
Because your body is integral to who you are, you can’t neglect its health. It’s a mistake to think that your spiritual health is all that matters.
2. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
Your body is not only part of your identity, but it is so much more. It’s a temple of the Holy Spirit! St. Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Would you let your parish church gather dust and crumble over time? If you truly believed it was sacred, you would make an effort to clean it and make repairs. It’s the same with your body — you want to keep it a fitting dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
3. God made you to exercise
It’s clear from God’s design of the human body that He intended you to exercise. Otherwise, why would He program your body to respond positively to it?
For most of human history, the majority of people performed regular manual labor, so they had a way to keep their bodies in shape. For many of us today who sit around in offices and drive cars, we have to make the time to exercise so that the body can stay in shape, as God intended.
4. Your bodily health can affect your spiritual health
This goes back to the first point that you are body and soul. Because of this close union, your body and soul influence each other. We have plenty of scientific evidence now that demonstrates that your psychological state of mind has real effects on your body. Similarly, the state of your body affects your inner life.
If you’re lazy on the outside, you’re liable to spiritual sluggishness. If you develop physical discipline by exercising regularly, then you’re teaching your soul how to be disciplined with its passions.
Some final thoughts
As with any worthwhile endeavor, exercise can end up fueling your pride or taking up too much of your time. You can see this clearly in our society’s cult-like obsession with bodily perfection.
For example, if you’re a father who’s spending hours each day at the gym trying to get shredded at the expense of your family, then you’ve crossed a line.
Also, while everyone should exercise, not everyone should do it in the same amount. For some, a short daily walk is best. Others may derive benefit from lifting weights. Choose the best method of exercise according to your age, health, time, and strength. Don’t overdo it!
The best way to sanctify your exercise routine is to offer it up to God as a prayer, the same way you would your work. God wants to be part of every aspect of your life, even something as mundane as your sweaty daily workout routine!