In his book The Cure for Everything, health-policy expert Timothy Caulfield tries to dispel various myths related to health and happiness. In his chapter about fitness, I was struck by a point about exercise by Todd Miller, a professor in the Department of Exercise Science at George Washington University.
People don’t [care] about health. People don’t say, “Wow, you have great blood pressure,” or “Check out that [person's] cholesterol.” They may say they care about being healthy, but they really don’t…People want to look good, and they equate looks with health. The entire fitness and physical-activity industry is built on this reality. It is driven by aesthetics (p. 5).
Obviously, this is a cynical generalization, but I’ve been reminded of it every time I’ve seen a health magazine or commercial. Adonis-like figures are all over the place, implicitly promising me that if I buy their products and follow their routines, I too can be a buff beach-side beauty.
Caulfield believes research demonstrates that Miller has a point.
Research has shown that people do, in fact, care mostly about appearances; at least, this is one of the biggest motivators for exercising….Yes, there are vast cultural and age-related complexities associated with the issue of exercise motivation…, but looks and weight control (for the purpose of looks) are constant themes in almost every study (p. 5).
This creates an interesting challenge for Christians. As Lent reminds us, we take seriously that we are fragile creatures, that life is fleeting, and that true contentment is not found in personal health reform efforts. But just as Lent gives way to Easter, and Death to Life, is it possible that something as mundane as our motivation to be healthy might also be transformed? Could it lie in the possibility that as healthier individuals, we might better serve others and live into the calling God has given us?
In Spirited Life, we feel privileged to journey with pastors as they explore these questions. To focus on one area of health, many have found that exercise has decreased their stress and given them more energy; it has helped them to prepare mentally for church meetings and bible studies and strengthened their discipleship.
As Christians and pastors, how have you wrestled to find a faithful motivation to exercise?
photo by flickr user Thomas Hawk, via creative commons