You should exercise. You should exercise more.

Physical inactivity is considered to be one of the leading causes of “preventable” cardiac death. This is a misnomer; it should be “delayable” cardiac death. The typically cited exercise target is 30 minutes per day at least 5 days every week – 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise weekly. According the AAFP Journal (6/1/16) only 5% of American adults achieve recommended exercise levels.

I ask my patients if they exercise. The responses often include:

       “I know I should exercise more” (sheepish grin)

“I used to be really active”

“I’m going to get back into that again”

“I have a membership in a gym, I just need to start going”

“I just don’t have time for that right now”

“With my (insert medical problem) I just can’t

“I tried that, it didn’t work for me”

I could get almost identical answers by asking: “How is your walk with Jesus?” 

The first three responses hint at guilt. I’m not sure guilt is the best way to motivate change – either to exercise more or to pursue a spiritual walk with more passion.

Comparison with the majority is incredibly common. It is, however, immaterial to determining truth. There is not absolute safety in standing with the 95% just as there is not absolute safety in standing against 95% of the population. What is popular and the path of wisdom are unrelated concepts.

Owning an elliptical trainer or having a membership at LA Fitness does not make you healthy. You have to get on the machine, you have to log gym time. The spiritual parallel is having multiple Bibles in your home and a church affiliation. That’s great! Or not so great if you never open the Bible, rarely attend the church and don’t walk in fellowship and accountability with the family of believers.

The last three responses above hint at lack of motivation to change. Life is busy. It’s hard to pay the bills, maintain the marriage, engage with the kids, participate in community. There are a host of legitimate reasons that exercise is difficult – hot weather, unsafe neighborhood, back pain, foot pain, shortness of breath. People tell me about weeks or months of regular exercise that did not produce weight loss or perceptible improvement in depression or myofascial pain. This leads to discouragement – it didn’t work, it’ll never work.

Busy – you still find time to do what’s important – like eating.

Excuses – you can solve this one. There is a way. I promise.

Futility – I’d like to change your goals, how you define success and failure. You won’t lose weight. Not much. It’ll be slow and after a couple years you’ll be down 10 or 20 pounds. Your back pain won’t improve. Or maybe it improves a little, or maybe you get used to it, or maybe you think more about taking that walk than about how much your back hurts.

The data shows there is benefit in exercising MORE and LESS than 150 minutes per week. If you are not active and you start with 5 minutes per day – that’s beneficial. If you already bike 30 minutes most days of the week, you’ll still benefit from an extra 5 minutes.  If you exercise on a regular basis you will feel better and live longer!

Whatever your level of Spiritual maturity, intentional effort will lead to growth. Pray 5 minutes in the car. Subscribe to a sermon podcast. Read a chapter a day. Get (more) involved in your local body of believers. Exercise your spiritual muscles; invest in eternity.