How do you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror? Do you like your body or have a sense of disappointment or shame about it? Do you appreciate your limbs and unique features? Do you wish there was anything about you that could be physically different? Do you respect the beautiful creation that God has formed you to be? Do you marvel at the brilliance of your organs and how they constantly work to keep you alive?
People come in all shapes and sizes. But above all, our bodies were made by God to house Him. Regardless of what you think about your own body, this is a wonderful fact for all of us! Thanks be to God! Your body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
A temple is a sacred place. It is important to keep it clean because like our churches, God is there. When we look after our bodies we show respect for ourselves because we are God’s handiwork! How we care for our earthen vessels (along with our minds and spirits) is our ‘thank you’ back to God.
Did you know that fitness, exercise, and our Catholic faith practice can work together marvellously? This never really clicked with me until I started to take exercise more seriously, and then extended it into my prayer life.
We pray to keep our spiritual muscles in shape and our connection to God intact, so why not do the same for our bodies? We can integrate our faith and physical practices to keep our bodies healthy, feel closer to our Creator, and appreciate our existence as His wonderful children.
Below are some tips to help you, but first, a word of caution! If you are beginning any exercises only do what you can manage and what is right for your fitness level, and then gradually build on that. If you don’t know what your fitness level is, just take it slowly. Do your research. Consult your doctor or medical professional for advice before starting any exercise program. You don’t want to hurt yourself or worsen any pre-existing health condition.
Prayer and movement
Why not let prayer move you, literally? While exercise and keeping fit is hard to begin, like most activities in life it requires commitment, motivation, inspiration, and an end-goal. Start with a confident mindset while you praise God in your prayer time – you can do it!
We want to maintain (or regain) good health through exercise because God gave us this life to treasure. Looking after our bodies helps us experience His gift of living every day in more positive ways. We need to choose movement over our sedentary lifestyles because we want to do His work on earth with as much energy and love as we can. Feeling good about our bodies and caring for our organs helps us to achieve this.
Did you know that you can exercise while praying the Rosary? Why not walk around a garden or in the park? The Rosary takes about 30 minutes which is an ideal amount of time to exercise and pray daily. I move slowly during some prayers, then briskly at other times. As mentioned in one of my previous posts, while it is recommended to pray the Rosary in a pious and respectful position such as kneeling, you can also combine this with movement. I have not found walking or exercising during the Rosary to be disrespectful or any less pious. In fact, movement has improved my focus on the rhythm of the words I am praying, and my breathing makes me appreciate the preciousness of life, giving thanks to God even more.
If you are uncomfortable about doing this while praying the Rosary, you can choose any other prayers to exercise with. Many resources are available which provide prayer and exercise suggestions, or you can pick and choose whatever you think is best to create your own routine:
- Can One Pray Rosary While Exercising?
- Holy Workout
- The Rosary Workout
- Exercise your Body and Soul with the Ultimate Rosary HIIT Workout for Runners
- How to Pray During Your Workouts
- 6 Ways to Pray While You Exercise
Food and water
We need to nourish our bodies to give them the energy they need to do God’s will in life. Without food and water we would obviously die, but it is about much more than this. What we consume can either build our bodies up or wear them down.
Life-building foods are healthy, natural, chemical-free and do not leave us feeling worse off. God has given us an abundance of fruits and vegetables, but too many of us eat overly-processed and fatty foods which leave us feeling sluggish, foggy, overweight, and at risk of life-threatening diseases. This is not God’s plan for us. He has created wonderful things to eat and it is up to us to make the right food choices which will either help or harm us.
Many of us are also blessed to have easy access to drinkable water which is preferred over sugary drinks. Approximately 60% of the human adult body is water. Water is life-sustaining. We are baptized in holy water. There many references to water in the Bible. It is our natural, God-given choice.
Observe how you are breathing as you read this. Is your breath shallow or deep? Is any part of your body tense? Are your shoulders hunched over?
Many of us do not breathe properly. As a singer this constant checking-in with my breath is crucial, but even in our everyday life diaphragmatic breathing is what we should all aim for. We want to take a low, relaxed, full breath which leaves us feeling calm and grounded. This supported way of breathing is particularly important as we exercise and move our bodies during prayer.
When God made man and woman He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” (Genesis 2:7). Like water, the Bible mentions breath many times. We want to ensure that we use and savour God’s gift of breath to truly live at our best and fullest.
Rest is an essential part of life, including exercise. Ensuring that we get enough rest and sleep will allow our bodies and minds to recover from the strains and stresses we place upon them during the day. As we rest, our muscles and tissues repair and our vitality is restored. After six days of creation God made the seventh day holy “…because on it God rested from all his work that he had done…” (Genesis 2:3). The same goes for us. Rest time does not equal wasted time. It is a precious opportunity to heal, reflect, give thanks, and recharge.
Encouragement and resources
I hope that this post has encouraged you to start working towards better health and fitness in your life, in combination with your faith practice. But if you still need convincing or are looking for motivation to start or continue, here is further support:
- Our Bodies Were Designed by God to Move
- How Exercise Helps You Connect With God
- Gym Time with Jesus: Nurturing Body and Soul
- Is Your Workout Strengthening Your Body and Soul?
- Do You Exercise for the Wrong Reasons?
- Christian Fitness Prayer and Encouragement
Exercise is about more than the body. When I looked up Bible readings about exercise I found words like self-control, discipline, endurance, keeping the faith, and the glory of God. We are running the race towards heaven. We must embrace the bodies that God has given us. You are an exquisite work of art, so why not start treating yourself like the treasure He made you to be. By doing so, you will not only feel amazing and stronger in your body and faith, but you will be honouring your Heavenly Father.
Image courtesy of pxhere.com