By Beth Davis
In the dark months of winter, depression is on the rise even among the most healthy ministers. Too many cold days can add up to a depressed mood that may last from a few hours to weeks or even months. Thankfully biblical and scientific research gives a clear antidote to depression. In other words, many times, depression is preventable. However, prevention requires planning and intentionality. In the next six blogs articles, I will cover six healthy lifestyles. Each of them will add an important element to your life. Check them out. Small changes can lead to large health dividends.
1. Aerobic Exercise
Adam and Eve spent their days tending the garden. The long hours of labor provided a natural environment for physical fitness. In contrast, the modern office setting is a very sedentary existence. God designed humankind for physical activity.
Trudging to the nearby gym on a regular basis may seem like a far cry from the Garden of Eden. However, a lifestyle that includes daily exercise offers many benefits for physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Statistics reveal that ministers, just as other members of society, struggle with depression. The common symptoms of depression—lack of energy and concentration—make it challenging, if not impossible to maintain a consistent devotional life. This spiritual deficit leads to a deep sense of guilt. Moderate exercise can break this vicious cycle. In addition to preventing depression, exercise provides dividends such as:
Energy. Exercise unlocks energy. Even a half-hour work-out or a quick walk around the block will provide an extra lift and the ability to stay focused throughout a busy day.
Weight Control. A trip to the health club results in calories burned. Calories burned equals weight loss. Research indicates that a healthy dose of physical exercise suppresses the appetite, helping curb the urge to reach for that extra candy bar or piece of cake.
A Sense of Well-Being. Extended physical activity causes the brain to release endorphins. These chemicals reduce stress and anxiety and promote feelings of peacefulness.
Financial Savings. Yes, it’s true. If you exercise, clothes will fit properly, and you can wear them longer. Preventative health efforts also pay off in money saved on medications and health care charges.
Restful Sleep. People who engage in sports or physical activity savor the effects of sound slumber. With less anxiety, sleep is undisturbed and restorative. Better rest results in higher productivity and contentedness.
Most individuals agree that they would enjoy the benefits of exercise, but they lack the determination to make it part of their lifestyle. The following list suggests tips for getting started in an exercise program:
Check with your doctor before beginning a new fitness program, to determine your ability to exercise.
- Gather information on an exercise program that will fit into your lifestyle. In his book, Faith-Based Fitness, Dr. Kenneth Cooper outlines simple, yet safe ways to become physically fit.
- Start out slowly and progress gradually; In addition to the benefits of aerobic exercise, Dr. Cooper suggests that for all-around health, individuals pursue three major components of a fitness program—endurance exercise, strength training, and flexibility.
- Incorporate exercise into daily activities. Choose to walk, rather than drive, climb the stairs instead of riding the elevator, and when possible, park a bit further from your destination. Add the element of faith by expressing gratitude to God for the ability to stretch, bend, and climb stairs. Exercise, as a part of your daily life and routines, can become an important part of worship.
- Find a partner. Exercising with a friend combines accountability with the opportunity to socialize (another important lifestyle). When one partner loses interest the other partner can stay motivated and vice versa. Whether it is walking in the neighborhood, playing tennis, or meeting at the gym, an exercise pal makes the time enjoyable.
- Exercise at the same time each day. Discover a time that works for you and, as much as possible, stick to it. Before you go to the office, on the way home in the evening, or at lunch time, sanctify time for exercise. Your life and ministry depend on it!