Staying active, particularly as you get older, is essential to health. The CDC recommends that older adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity. That's five half-hour workouts every week, which is no small feat, even for younger adults. Being active is not something that occurs by accident; you have to be intentional about it.
Church leaders are often reluctant, however, to broach the topic of physical health with their congregations. Their focus tends to be more on spiritual growth, not physical strength and stamina. Just as spirituality can affect people's overall mental and physical well-being, though, the way they take care of their bodies can have an effect on both mood and spiritual health. Because the three aspects of each person's being are interconnected, it makes sense to incorporate methods to help all members of your church stay active when planning your programs and practices. Start with these ideas, and keep an open mind as new options emerge.
If you have a church newsletter that you know most of your congregation reads and enjoys, that's a great place to start issuing reminders and tips on how to stay active. Include a piece that lists small ways to add movement to their daily lives:
- Go for a brisk walk
- Take a 5-minute dance break
- Deep clean a small area of your home
- Start and maintain a garden
Insert these gentle reminders into the newsletter every couple of months. If you have members with some type of medical background, such as doctors or nurses, it may be a good idea to ask them to contribute health tips to the newsletter as well.
Exercise that feels like drudgery when you do it alone can become fun in a group. Encourage members to start small groups that get people moving. If your church has a lot of people who enjoy hiking, they may be inclined to do it more often if they can join a group of enthusiasts who are already familiar to them through the church. Hosting regular yoga or other low-impact workout sessions in your community center or fellowship hall doesn't have to be a lot of work. Simply put it on the calendar and designate someone to find online videos to help guide each meeting. It's easier for members to stay active when they know there is a group of people who enjoy their company and expect them to show up. Combining physical activity with social engagement fulfills more than one need.
When you want to communicate to the congregation that something is important, you need specific leaders who can answer questions and help people set and reach goals. Maintaining a healthy activity level is no exception. Consider starting a health team or committee in your church. Ideally, this team will be led by someone who has professional experience with exercise or health, but a leader who brings a lot of enthusiasm to the task is also a good fit. This team can come up with specific programs and initiatives to help members make healthier choices that become lifelong habits. It's never too early to start leading a healthier lifestyle, and a specific team dedicated to this effort can make a world of difference in the overall health of your congregation.
It doesn't always occur to leaders to incorporate strategies for healthy living into the life of the church. Physical health can affect all the other aspects of members' lives, though, so it's not something you want to ignore. By giving members information and tangible ways to get involved and add healthy activities to their lives, you are taking care of their whole selves.