Five Steps to Healthy Living (Part 1)

Katherine PasourBy Katherine PasourSeptember 16, 20228 Minutes

Our human bodies are an amazing gift from God, “fearfully and wonderfully made” as described in Psalm 139:14. In the process of creation, our heavenly Father began with a dark void on the first day and culminated in the creation of our amazing planet. Scripture tells us that on each phase of creation, God saw His work as “good,” but when He formed humans, on the sixth day, it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We can best honor this “very good” gift from God, and care for our bodies, by living a healthy lifestyle.

Living a healthy lifestyle involves making good health choices. The key word here is “choices.” We choose our lifestyle behaviors. Sometimes (many times) these choices are hard. After all, it may be a challenge to say no to our favorite dessert, make a commitment to exercise daily, or set aside quiet time for reflection in the midst of a demanding schedule. No one can realistically promise making good health choices is easy, but a healthy lifestyle can be achieved and maintained.

This two-part series offers five steps on the journey toward healthy living:

  • Being physically active
  • Choosing healthy options to cope with stress
  • Making healthy nutrition choices
  • Participate in, and enjoy, active social relationships
  • Establish and maintain healthy sleep habits

In Part 1, the focus is physical activity and healthy options to cope with stress.

Being Physically Active

Our “fearfully and wonderfully made” bodies are designed to be physically active. We have 206 bones and over 600 muscles that allow us to walk, run, jump, climb, balance, stretch, lift objects, play games, cook and clean, mow grass, and much more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 a physically active lifestyle has positive and powerful impact on our health. The benefits of health-related physical fitness include:

  • Strengthening the heart muscle
  • Strengthening bones and muscles
  • Reduced likelihood of developing chronic disease
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risks of some cancers
  • Maintenance of a healthier weight
  • Improved mental health and reduced stress
  • Reduced risks of osteoporosis
  • Reduced level of brain cell loss and lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Improved balance and reduced risk of falling for older adults
  • Live longer with a better quality of life

As we review the benefits of a physically active lifestyle, the positive results on the above list resemble a miracle cure-all. If being active can provide all these benefits, why isn’t everyone doing it? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately fifty percent of adults meet the minimum recommended activity requirement of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity. That means a large number of us aren’t achieving an active lifestyle.

Our bodies are designed to move, but often, a sedentary lifestyle slips up on us. For those who already have an active lifestyle and exercise four to six days a week for thirty to sixty minutes—Great! However, for those of us who don’t, safely increasing our amount of exercise can significantly improve our health.

If you aren’t currently participating in an exercise program of regular physical activity, a visit to your doctor is important to rule out anything which might prevent initiating increased physical activity. Once cleared to begin exercise, if you’re not currently active, start slowly. Walking is an ideal activity to begin an exercise program. The only requirements are a good pair of shoes (essential), a safe place to walk, and motivation to stick with it (perhaps a walking buddy?).

For those who are just beginning activity, begin with small increments, perhaps five minutes a day for three days a week. Gradually increase over a period of six to eight weeks, working toward a goal of walking five to six days a week for thirty to sixty minutes.

There are many other exercise options: Going to a spa or gym, aerobics/Zumba, water aerobics, weight lifting, swimming, hiking, cycling, etc. Opportunities abound! Resistance exercise, such as weight lifting, exercise bands, lunges, squats, modified or regular push-ups, and crunches (sit-ups) strengthen our muscles and prevent osteoporosis. Choose something safe and enjoyable, that you can participate in for a lifetime.

And remember, start slowly, be consistent, and progress over a period of time.

Choosing Healthy Strategies to Cope with Stress

We all face stress on a daily basis. Some stress is good for us — reminding us to get up in the morning and go to work, meet our daily responsibilities, and achieve goals we set for ourselves. We might experience good stress when we, or a loved one, reach a milestone — graduation, a new job, marriage, or retirement (of course these same life events can also cause distress). Since we cannot avoid stress in life, the key is to manage it appropriately.

  • Healthy eating
  • Regular exercise
  • Taking a walk
  • Planning ahead to avoid procrastination and stress over deadlines
  • Hobbies we enjoy
  • Quiet time for reflection, meditation, Bible study, or devotional time
  • A confidant with whom we trust to share our feelings

It is also imperative that we use positive strategies as coping mechanisms and avoid risky behaviors such as smoking, drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous actions which can cause physical, mental, or emotional harm to ourselves or others.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of a special task assigned to our bodies:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)2

Our bodies are the vessel for the Holy Spirit. By striving to live a healthy lifestyle, we honor our Father.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/

2 All scripture is taken from the NIV