Exercise that’s Not Torture

Because women tend to have very negative associations with the word “exercise,” I prefer to talk about “movement.” Movement is what we all very naturally do. However, cultural, social, psychological, and family pressures can influence us to suppress and ignore the need for movement that allows our bodies to be what God created them to be. Many Christian women feel it would be selfish if they took time for regular physical activities, especially those they enjoy, such as dancing, swimming, hiking, walking, bowling, jazzercise, etc.

Yet our bodies crave movement! How on earth can women get their priorities straight, including those very natural urges to stretch, stride, hop, skip, climb, and sway?

First, thank God for the things your body can do (Ps. 139:14)—and if you’re upset about some things you can’t do, be honest with God about that too (1 Pet. 5:7). Then, ask the Lord whether he has provided you with the time and physical ability to pursue some forms of physical activity that would fall in line with his priorities for you and with the body he’s given you.

Prayerfully consider those activities you would naturally enjoy doing—if you didn’t have to do them and if you had the time to do them. Keep in mind that there is nothing you have to do every day and there is a variety of options for any one week or any time in your life. For example, you could meet with a friend or someone you’re discipling and walk while talking. This is one of my favorite forms of socializing. In the winter, a dull indoor mall becomes a great venue for lively conversation and a peppy “constitutional.” If you are the mother of toddlers, it may be plenty of “exercise” to just run around after your children and clean house. If you have mobility difficulties, perhaps stretching your arms or bobbing your head to your favorite music would be invigorating.

Stay prayerful and stay open to the infinite variety of God’s creative alternatives. What felt good when you were a teen may no longer be best for you now that you’re in your 40’s. What works in the summer may need to be swapped for another activity in the winter. You never know how God will work in the relationships you develop during group sports activities—or how he’ll use movement to reduce your stress and allow you to have the time and energy to hear more clearly from him.

Allowing movement to flow naturally in your life is not a have-to; it’s the opportunity to express an aspect of who God made you to be. Honestly bring this matter before the Lord and see what how he enables you to move.

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