Granted, physical exercise is a distant second to our other priorities, such as prayer, teaching, and pastoral counseling, etc., but it is still important. Paul didn’t forbid Timothy from exercising or showing concern for his physical health, he simply said that its profit was only “little” compared to more eternal priorities and rewards (1 Timothy 4:8).
Here’s the thing though. Pastors need to stay engaged in those more eternal priorities for an entire lifetime. We can’t be burning out or quitting prematurely because we’ve let the health of our bodies lag behind our spirits.
In a 2010 New York Times article, clergy members were dubiously ranked as having higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and depression, as well as lower life expectancies, than most Americans (For the article link, click here).
I certainly understand the stresses and pressures that accompany the clergy lifestyle, and indeed it seems nearly unavoidable to remain free from some of those effects; however, one of our perks as pastors and ministry leaders—if we’ll take advantage of it—is our ability to govern our time. We have the luxury of controlling our calendars and building moderate workout routines into the rhythm of our weekly schedules, and thus reaping the benefits of both increased strength and flexibility, and decreased stress and depression.
Church Leader, we need you. This generation needs you. And we’re going to continue needing you for many years and decades to come, so let’s commit to not letting Big Macs, soft drinks, or sedentary lifestyles cut our ministries short. Let’s devote a “little” time each week to the discipline of physical fitness so that we can spend years devoting the “majority” of our time to the things that matter most.
If you want to go for it and ramp up your workout commitments, here’s the skinny (no pun intended):
- Eat 5 or 6 small meals per day, containing balanced portions of protein, vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
- Drink 7 or 8 glasses of water each day.
- Lift weights three days each week, working out each body part once per week (a simple weightlifting routine of this nature should only take about thirty minutes to complete, including a few minutes to stretch and warm up).
- Do twenty minutes of cardio training (running, walking, biking, etc.) three times each week. Try to use an interval approach to your cardio routines, wherein you vary your running, walking, or biking speeds (interval training boosts the metabolism and strengthens cardiovascular health better than static cardio does). By the way, if you lift weights and do your cardio on the same day, lift weights before your cardio training.
- Pick a day each week where you rest your body and engage in some guilt-free eating of your favorite high calorie foods and desserts. You will have earned it, and it won’t be terribly detrimental to your overall workout aims.