The other day I had a conversation with a friend about spirituality and exercise. It basically started with a general question. What are your reasons for doing spiritual things like meditating, listening to tranquil sounds of running brooks and music, and lighting candles? The answers I received? It clears my mind, helps me connect with my higher self, helps me find peace, helps me feel stronger, helps me create an emotional balance, and helps me feel better about myself and about my life.
OK, all very cool things to want to connect with and achieve right? After all, imagine a day at work or school when things are unusually hectic. When everything feels like one hustle after the other and your day ends with your head spinning. But are the traditional spiritual activities the only ways to achieve the goals of enlightenment and peace? No. One of the many benefits of physical exercise is that you can achieve the same euphoria, peace of mind, and self-fulfillment. It’s a known fact that exercise makes us feel better. It releases endorphins, makes us feel better, stronger, and clears our mind. It gives us a balance both emotionally and physically.
Many of you know that I tote the praises of exercise and its benefits regularly. Now it isn’t the be all to end all, but it can play as big a role in your life as you let it. The very nature of life means that we have to deal with surprises and stressful situations on a daily basis. The energy that you surround yourself with will affect your health, both physically and mentally. That’s a fact. Lack of exercise and daily stress will equate to stress on your heart, elevation of your blood pressure, reduction in your appetite, and over time, cause weight gain and long term health problems. That’s also a fact. So finding things that will improve your mind, body, and spirit is essential.
A nice run for instance will help you clear your mind, elevate your heart rate, release endorphins, strengthen your lungs, improve your endurance, and help you lose weight. Doing resistance training with free weights and stack weight machines will also give you many of the same benefits, in addition to increasing your lean muscle mass. Combining the two styles of training will be like a one two punch.
Now if you exercise regularly and suddenly stop for a few days, you may notice that you feel restless, a little lethargic, and for lack of a better word — empty. This is no coincidence. If exercise gives you all the benefits that I mentioned, a sudden loss of it can cause a noticeable change in your energy and your body. The same can probably be said for doing traditional spiritual activities. If you suddenly stop doing them, you will feel the loss.
Page 2 of 2 - We feed our bodies, our mind, and our spirit. So we have to exercise them too. It’s a balance that helps us deal with the challenges of life, and keeps us healthy. If exercise is something you haven’t done in a while, you should start and try some of the things I mentioned. See what a difference it can make to your well being. Start out with a walk or light workout, gradually increasing the distance you walk and the weights you lift over time. There’s an old saying, “We are spiritual beings immersed in a human experience.” What we make of that experience is up to us.
Michael Shaw is a certified fitness trainer, sports performance nutrition specialist, owner of Shaw Fitness, a member of the Maryland Advisory Council on Physical Fitness, a BLS CPR instructor, and a fitness model. He can be reached at www.michaelroyshaw.com.