In a few weeks, the clocks are going back, and that can knock some of us completely off track. Early mornings and dark evenings can make it easier to say “yes” to sleeping in, indulging more, and binge-watching the latest trending TV show.
But staying active is about more than just keeping your physical body healthy. When we get active, we promote mental wellness and even strengthen our faith. Unfortunately, the CDC reports that 1 in 4 adults is inactive, meaning they don’t get any physical activity outside of their regular job.
At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, we help individuals find healthy ways to manage their feelings of stress and anxiety. Below, we highlight why staying active benefits your physical, mental, and spiritual wellness.
It’s no secret that engaging in physical activities is good for our bodies. “Regular exercise has both immediate and long-lasting benefits linked to cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar regulation (harvardpilgrim.org).”
In addition, physical activity can stave off chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and various cancers.
“Exercise helps pump oxygen to the brain, lowering the level of stress hormones and increasing mood-enhancing serotonin levels (harvardpilgrim.org).” It has also been reported to increase brain sensitivity to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression.
Some of the benefits of physical activity on our mental wellness occur immediately after a session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, such as:
Reduced feelings of state anxiety (short-term anxiety)
Improved aspects of cognitive function
One study conducted over four months found that both stretching and resistance exercise led to improvements in sleep for people with chronic insomnia.
Beyond immediate effects, regular or habitual physical activity has been shown to improve long-term anxiety, encourage deep sleep, and improve components of executive function, including the ability to plan and organize and control emotions.
It is difficult to be active in the church, pray, or volunteer our time when we are sick or exhausted. Yet, scripture tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit – “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19).” Our temples deserve to be cared for and protected.
Patience, diligence, perseverance, commitment. When we prioritize our physical health, we exercise the same virtues we practice in faith.
Find What Works for You
There’s no right or wrong way to get active. While different activities are categorized differently in terms of physical effort (for example, running is vigorous intensity, while walking or yoga are considered moderate); any way you get moving is good for your body, mind, and spirit.
To get started, find an activity you enjoy and establish a routine. For example, maybe you find yoga peaceful and a relaxing way to start your day, or maybe you like to challenge yourself with jogging or running after the work day is over. The goal is to stay consistent.
We encourage you to develop a fitness routine that keeps you moving. However, please speak with a healthcare provider before starting or changing an exercise regimen.