Sunday, October 2, 2016

10/16 Column: Improving Our Human Nature

October 2016 Creation Corner Column

Improving Our Human Nature

This is a column about nature; what about our human nature?  Our created being?  How may it be improved upon, as we consider how to improve all of nature?

Not being sedentary, and walking instead, is a form of exercise, and exercise has been shown (as has a proper nutritional diet) to have many benefits.  In my house I have a poster from 20 years ago, "96 Reasons to Exercise in 1996"!

According to an article by Alexandra Sifferlin, (TIME, 7/4/16, p. 18), "The New Reasons to Exercise" include it having mind-body benefits (one study found that 37% of yoga practitioners  keep up their practice for spirituality reasons); it improves memory, increases energy, may stave off depression, curb cravings and reduce the risk of serious cancers.

Some churches are uniting religion and an improvement of human nature through physical fitness and health programs, according to an article by Erin Beresini in the OUTSIDE magazine for October 2016.  One fitness instructor says "God want us to be healthy and strong and to shine out his light for others to see."

There is now a Faith and Fitness magazine and conferences, and a web site ( .  The non-profit Health Fitness Revolution ranked the top fitness-minded American mega-churches.  There is the Global Congress on Sports and Christianity.

"You could have a great heart, but your ability to serve is going to be impacted by your fitness level," said one Baptist pastor. 

A personal trainer said our priorities are confused:  "Don't have affairs...but you can do food like nobody's business."

So if our unhealthy bodies are hindering our full potential to serve God, churches are creating Health Fitness challenges.  Rick Warren promotes the Daniel (diet) Plan.  New Jersey has grants for faith-based organizations to begin community health programs.  A church gym composes a "Fitness and Recreation Ministry", helping it to be relevant in a culture that is increasingly health-minded.

Might "Thou Shalt Work Out" become the 11th commandment?

If so, the cover story for TIME magazine (Sept. 12 and 19), "The New Science of Exercise" by Mandy Oaklander provides another series of benefits that can incentivize our participation.  A sample:  More blood to the brain can help create new blood vessels, release chemicals that lighten one's mood and ease pain; more blood pumped to muscles carries oxygen to help withstand fatigue; weight-bearing efforts can help muscles grow, put pressure on bones that increases their density; blood flow to the skin propels nutrients to the epidermis, thus helping wounds heal faster; fat cells shrink as fat is burned to be used for energy; and exercise may protect the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes (telomeres) that in turn may slow the aging of cells.

Readers of that TIME piece in the subsequent issue lamented the absence of advice for people with disabilities, who also need "safe and consistent access to recreation and sport".  But rehab services exist to help with that.  The bottom line, however, came from one reader who lamented the lure of the ever-present home couch, saying it represents "the exact opposite of mental, social, spiritual and physical activity and personal improvement."  Timely advice on the healing power of movement.  Whatever your physical condition, you may be able to find a way to "go in peace and serve the Lord."

This column originally started in October 1997, written for the monthly newsletter of the ecumenical newsletter of the United Churches of Lycoming County, PA, by Lutheran layman Michael Ochs.