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A Guide for Becoming Healthier, Happier and Longer-Lasting Christian Leaders: Part 2

Brent HooverBrent Hoover

This is part 2 in a 3-part series.

Leader Care is Spiritual, Relational, and Physical 

In order to be holistic in our wellbeing we must consider the importance of being a steward of our physical health in addition to our spiritual and relational health. A second major shift in our thinking we need to make is that we, as servants of God, are both body and soul. Let us no longer think of ourselves primarily as spiritual people who need only to care for our souls at the expense of our bodies. God created the human body and displays His glory in and through it.

The body is not “the flesh” ‒ something evil that should be rejected. A Christian’s body is the holy temple of God ‒ the realm where the spiritual life is lived. It is your vehicle for living ‒ for ministry and for blessing others. It is intricately designed with an incredibly beautiful complex set of systems for optimal health. And these systems are 100% under your management. So, you must love and take care of your body as a way of honoring your Creator. This is an area of stewardship that reflects the kind of character we have as leaders. 

We can take care of our body by meeting its four basic needs: nutrition, movement, rest and connection. Keeping these in balance will prevent us from becoming unhealthy. Further, the physical and the spiritual/emotional areas of life are intimately interconnected. You will find that when you care for and improve yourself physically, your emotions will improve. “Motion affects emotion.” And since your body and soul are connected, when you improve your spiritual-emotional health it will also affect you physically. 

God has so designed the unity of body-soul that we must reorient ourselves to this way of thinking and become joyful caretakers of this part of creation just as Adam and Eve were caretakers of God’s garden in Eden. 

Health vs. Perfection

Health does not mean perfection. It means that what the body was designed to do, it can do well. You and I may not have the perfect legs of a track star but we can have healthy legs that can walk and run, stand and sit. The inability to do these movements comfortably is a sign of unhealthiness. 

Our goal is not perfection ‒ it is progress. Starting out a wellness program with a specific goal like “lose 25 pounds” is not the best approach because many people quit if they cannot reach the goal. We all have experienced the try-fail-quit cycle. A better approach is to ask, “Are you in a training program?” Dallas Willard summarizes it this way, “Stop trying, start training.” 

An effective personal wellness program that will help you progress towards greater physical health has a plan, a place and a partner and focuses on four areas.  The four areas to improve in the care of your body are Nutrition, Movement, Renewal, and Connection. In Part 2 we will discuss the first two; in Part 3 we will cover the latter two. Take the time to ask yourself these important questions, and make a plan to move forward!

Nutrition ‒ “Food is Medicine”

The first step to a stronger healthier you is nutrition. We simply must evaluate whether or not our fuel system is healthy. We then need to ask what eating habits need changing for us to become healthier. 

Every person needs enough daily energy calories. There are three types of calories: carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Carbohydrates are in vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruit, and dairy products. Good sources of carbohydrates are sweet potatoes, oats, brown rice, chickpeas, and fruits. 

Good sources of protein are found in meat, fish, chicken, dairy, tofu, peanut butter, chia seeds, nuts, and beans. 

Healthy fat sources are avocado, extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds, cheese, and nuts. Our body needs all three types of caloric energy and a total of between 1700 to 3000 calories per day depending on body type and activity level. 

But not all food and drink calories are the same ‒ there are healthy calories and unhealthy calories. Your plate should be ½ vegetables and fruits, ¼ protein, and ¼ healthy fats. Carbohydrates will give you energy to move and exercise. Protein will make you feel full and your body will use it to re-build muscle after exercise and strengthen bone density. Healthy fats balance out many of the things your body needs. 

Foods or drinks with added sugars, processed foods, oily foods, or desserts are to be avoided. The key is to eat natural foods with lots of colors: green, red, orange, blue, purple, etc. This is called “eating the rainbow.” 

Hydration is also critical fuel and most people need to drink more water than they are used to each day. Green tea and water are great options, but avoid fruit juices. 

Think of food as fuel, medicine, and enjoyment from God. Getting the right fuel will help your body maintain health and strength. It will also prepare you for strength training and movement. Without proper nutrition, exercise will not be able to train your body because it will not be getting the right fuel to rebuild itself and strengthen itself. Good nutrition is the first step to make progress in physical wellbeing. 

ASK: What is your plan for your fueling your body? 

Movement ‒ “To move is to improve,” “Motion affects emotion”

We must move because the human body was made for movement. Research now shows that people who have jobs that require long hours of sitting are at a much higher risk for all kind of health problems ‒ even if they exercise at the end of the day! The only way to lower the risk is by including several minutes of movement each hour of their day. Not only is movement important, you must have some brief times each day of fast movement. If you do not move fast enough to get your heart beating quickly for 10 minutes a day, you may be developing heart and circulation related illnesses. This means causing your heart rate to reach 70% of your maximum heart rate minute (the formula is: 220 – age x .70).  For example, a 50-year-old’s target heart rate range for cardio workouts would be 120 to 150 beats per minute). 

This can be done through a variety of quick-paced challenges like running in place, jumping rope, boxing moves, or other fun movements. These can be done in 30-second bursts followed by 30 seconds of rest for four minutes followed by strength training using body weight movements like squats or push-ups. 

A scientifically researched fitness design that produces results in ten minutes a day is the 4321-burst workout and was designed by wellness coach Sean Foy. His book, The Burst! Workout is an effective approach for anyone wanting to add cardio and muscular movement into their life. 

Besides focused exercise movements we also need movement breaks after sitting in a chair for an hour at work. Sitting for many hours a day has become the new “smoking” ‒ it is hazardous to your health. Micro-breaks to move and stretch each hour are essential. Simple mobility movements (moving the arms, legs, hips, or back in its full range of motion) and balance training positions bring needed refreshment to a body that has been sitting in an office or car for hours at a time. These lifestyle health adjustments can have a powerful impact and are just as important as times of focused exercise. 

In general, a lifestyle of movement and fun play is the best way to be a caretaker of your body. “To move is to improve.” So, get moving in small and big ways to be a healthier person. The most ideal way is to have a plan, a place, and a partner

For example, my plan is 4321 Burst Workout three times a week, and twice a week I will do strength training or some sport I love (biking or basketball or hiking) My place is the local Planet Fitness, which is just $10 a month. This gives me a place to focus on myself and gives me no excuse when bad weather comes. Or my “place” is my hotel room or some park when I travel. Sometimes my fitness partners are my daughters who might go to the fitness center at the same time I go, or my partner is a friend whom I text and let know that I am working out. Even texting a friend is a good way of encouragement and a way of becoming more consistent.  

ASK: What is your plan for movement? 

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