“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Our bodies, which include our mind, are gifts from God, and exercise helps us take care of them. The benefits of exercise are many. Besides being physically fit, exercise benefits a person’s mental health. Regular aerobic activity, including jogging, biking, swimming, dancing, and gardening, have proven to increase blood circulation to the brain which helps to alleviate stress and helps with a positive outlook in mood.
For many of my clients who struggle with mood, I encourage physical exercise because of the medicinal effect. Walking for fifteen to twenty minutes three times a week is beneficial. No time to exercise? Try a simple lifestyle change like parking the car a little further away or using the stairs.
Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. When stressed or anxious, we tense our muscles without even noticing. It is not uncommon for stress to affect the body physically.
Exercise helps us to become more in tune with our body and how it feels and reacts. With PTSD, our nervous system becomes stuck on stress like a skipping record or looping video.
For many years prior to working as a counselor, I was a personal trainer and fitness instructor with a fitness ministry focused on body, mind, and spirit. God has created the three to work together as one. The mind is strong, and what we think and tell ourselves motivates us. When engaging in exercise from a healthy perspective, there are no negative effects and the benefits to mind, body, and spirit are many:
Feeling helpless and don’t know where to start? Take baby steps. You don’t have to have the all or nothing mindset. It is OK to start at ground zero and just go for a walk. Making small goals to start with and accomplishing them will give you confidence. It may help having an exercise buddy or even choosing to exercise at a time of day when you have the most energy. Remember something is better than nothing. If you have physical limitations, check with your doctor before you begin.
No time? In our busy world, some of us already feel exhausted. When tired or stressed, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. However, exercise will actually give you more energy. In working with many busy moms over the years, the topic of selfishness and taking time away from the family would notoriously come up. My answer would always be to remember the top-down effect. When you feel good about yourself, everything else falls into place, which allows you to be a better mom, wife, sister, and a more productive human being overall. God calls us to be the best person we can be and taking time to exercise helps us to gain not only physical, but mental strength.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema