Have you ever considered that God values your body and wants you to do the same?
He created you as an embodied human being, where your soul and body are equivalent components of your personhood. In other words, both your soul and your body are equally valuable and essential to your existence. At times, however, Christians focus so much on spiritual matters that we forsake physical matters—tending to what our bodies need in order to be healthy and strong. We tend to elevate spiritual concerns over the physical to the extent that we care for the soul but not the body.
God affirms the human body in numerous ways. He created men and women in his image, which includes our physical frame. He took on flesh to redeem us. He wonderfully designs, indwells, and promises to resurrect our bodies. Plainly, God cares for the body, and Christians should too.
Like the way we view other gifts from God, we should consider our bodies as something to steward, which requires us to be responsible managers. Stewarding the body means we care for it well with proper nutrition, sufficient exercise, adequate rest, and limiting stress. We also care for the body by not neglecting or abusing it through malnutrition or gluttony, disregarding exercise or over-exercising, refusing to get sufficient rest, and even committing acts of self-harm.
Let’s look at some basic tips on how to treat the body well. Giving attention to these matters is necessary because it shows that you value your health and well-being, which are integral aspects of the physical life God created.
God designed the body to function off of six nutrient classes, including four macronutrients and two micronutrients.
Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water are considered macronutrients because the body needs these in large quantities. The next class is micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals, which the body requires in smaller amounts. Let’s look at the macronutrients first.
Carbohydrates serve as the body’s largest source of energy. It’s best to eat carbohydrate sources that are made with whole grain wheat. Whole wheat contains less sugar and more fiber, which leaves you feeling fuller longer. Men need thirty-five grams of fiber, while women require twenty-five grams of fiber each day. As for sugar, try to limit it to twenty-five grams a day or less.
Fats are essential to numerous bodily processes. There are three main fats. Trans fats are manufactured, not good for the body, and found in processed foods. Saturated fats come from animal sources like meat, dairy, eggs, and fried foods. Mono/polyunsaturated fats are the healthiest fats and are found in nuts, nut butters, most oils, fish, and avocados. Avoid trans fats, limit saturated fats to fifteen grams, and eat mostly mono/polyunsaturated fats.
Proteins act as the foundational building blocks of the body. The two types of proteins are complete and incomplete, which refers to whether or not they contain all nine essential amino acids. Complete protein sources are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. Eat lean proteins regularly like poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs (mostly whites), along with incomplete protein sources such as beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Water is vital to the body’s activities, and insufficient intake can lead to dehydration. The average person needs half his body weight in ounces of water each day. If you do not get enough water, it also likely means you’re consuming excess calories through sugary beverages.
As for micronutrients, eating colorful fruits and vegetables are the best way to boost vitamin and mineral intake. Dairy, meat, and grains also contain vitamins and minerals. Like macronutrients, the body depends on a variety of vitamins and minerals for optimal health.
God designed the body to improve with exercise.
The American Heart Association (AHA) gives minimum weekly recommendations for cardiovascular activity. They advise either two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise (like brisk walking or water aerobics) or seventy-five minutes of vigorous intensity exercise (like running or uphill hiking) per week. However, the best type of aerobic activity is interval training. This type of cardio cycles between vigorous and moderate intensities, causing the heart rate to elevate and then recover. For instance, you can walk for thirty seconds then jog for thirty seconds. Alternating between a walk and jog is an easy way to perform interval training. Cardio strengthens your heart, lungs, blood vessels, red blood cells, and overall ability to take in and utilize oxygen. It also helps with flexibility, which makes everyday tasks easier. It decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and premature death. It also aids in stress reduction and boosts the endorphins that make us feel good.
The AHA also recommends doing a total body resistance training routine at least twice a week. A total body routine hits all the major muscle groups—legs, chest, back, arms, and core. Resistance training strengthens joints and tendons as well as muscles, which protects from injury and increases the ease of daily tasks. It improves posture, balance, and coordination, which are especially crucial in aging populations. It decreases depression symptoms, stress, the chance of obesity, and muscle imbalances. Most importantly, weightlifting increases bone mass density, or the strength of your bones, and guards against osteoporosis.
Adequate Rest and Limiting Stress
Like the typical American, you are probably overworked, stressed out, and sleep deprived. You go day to day without considering how your to-do list, work environment, and home life impact your body. You may miss the physical signs, but they exist. It might be a tension headache, an uneasy stomach, rapid heart rate, or perhaps you clench your teeth while sleeping. One way or another, your body is trying to get your attention.
Physical health reflects soul health. When we thrive emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, our body usually reaps the benefits. As psychosomatic beings, the mind impacts the body, and the body affects the mind. This connection, created by God, acts as a warning signal, alerting us to rest and relax. Rest restores the mind-body connection that stress interrupts. As finite human beings, we require rest—resting in the Lord and resting from work. Resting is a way of trusting God, acknowledging your limitations, and renewing your dependence on him.
To incorporate rest, carve out pockets of time in your daily schedule, even if it is simply a few moments to focus on deep breathing. Once a week, ensure you protect a time of refuge from your schedule, technology, home life, social media, work, or any other potential stressors. Find a hobby; enjoy God’s creation; go for a relaxing drive. Do something that rejuvenates you. Lastly, aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to allow the mind and body sufficient recovery time, as lack of sleep can impact daily functioning.
As a Christian, you are divinely equipped with the fruit of self-control. By the indwelling Holy Spirit, you can be controlled and disciplined as you take the necessary steps to steward your body for his glory and for your good. Physical and spiritual health are both critical factors in doing the work of ministry well. If you’re a pastor, counselor, ministry leader, or missionary, don’t neglect your physical health, as it could jeopardize your ability to minster long-term.
The body loves consistency. Be as consistent as possible in your efforts of body stewardship. If you mess up one day, don’t give up. Renew your determination by the Holy Spirit’s power and give yourself grace to start fresh the next day.
No matter your current physical condition, you can start making small changes today. In doing so, you will be valuing your body as God does and glorifying him in it (1 Corinthians 6:12–20).