Health and Religion

A minister and his wife tell of their two-pronged attack on unwanted weight and untimely death.

Donna and Lloyd Wyman write from Newbury Park, California. Lloyd is Ministerial secretary for the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.


Lloyd: "Is that really you, Lloyd?" My mother stood wide-eyed, looking at me. In the months since she had last seen me I had added a number of pounds and considerably increased my girth.

I was a lightweight at the time of my marriage. My 135 pounds represented very little more than skin stretched over a six-foot frame. "Son, don't ever stand sideways, or they'll count you absent," my father-in-law joked at the time!

But the weight and the inches seemed to creep up all too quickly about the time I began my life as a minister, not many months following our wedding. The bathroom scales read 185 pounds for me then, and soon moved up to nearly 200 pounds. (It was about this time that my mother saw me and couldn't believe all that stack of flesh and clothing was really I.) For a number of years I packed the weight around until one day, standing before the mirror, I was strongly impressed that something had to be done, and immediately. Not only did I look terrible, my blood pressure was higher than normal.

The ministry is a busy life. It can consume all of a man's working hours, even his hours to be with the family. Time for necessary exercise must be consciously set aside and protected. Realizing this, I began a two-pronged attack on my weight problem:

1. Jogging, which a voice teacher had encouraged me to do, became a serious interest. At least five times a week I ran a couple of miles. Current opinion holds that a minimum of thirty minutes a day of strenuous exercise, four days a week, will go far in keeping a person free from heart disease. Strenuous exercise is any type of exercise—swimming, cycling, skiing, racquetball, running—which in creases the exercise heart rate up to 70 percent of its capacity. (To find your minimum target exercise heart rate* take the number of 220, subtract your age, and multiply the result by 70 percent.)

My present exercise program goes like this. I run three to four miles per day, four days each week. On Sundays I run six to ten miles to give my body a stretch. When I can I play racquetball once or twice a week; however, rarely do I run and play racquetball on the same day.

2. Donna and I talked it over an decided to go on two meals a day, making sure at the same time that our grow ing children got three. After eating two meals a day for a number of years we heard about the value of eating the day's biggest meal for breakfast. The reports convinced us to give it a try. At first the idea of eating our main meal of vegetables, entree, salad, et cetera, at seven o'clock in the morning didn't seem at all appealing. However, when one hasn't eaten anything since 2:00 P.M. the day before, I assure you one can eat heartily at breakfast time! This pattern provides full energy at the outset of the day, and seems to carry one through the day with more vitality.

After I started on my two-pronged program, the pounds began falling away. During all the intervening years (more than twenty now), it hasn't been hard to maintain a correct weight and feel great!

Donna: It's a little hard for me to believe that I'm writing an article on running. A few years ago I would have doubted the sound judgment of anyone who had foretold such a thing. All the years I lived with a running husband, I never once was tempted to join him. Oh, I applauded him for his determination and his resulting trim figure, but I had absolutely no interest in taking up the sport myself. I found much more satisfaction in a second piece of apple pie—and it showed!

About two years ago I began to think seriously about my health, particularly in the light of my family background. My mother had emergency open-heart surgery at 64; eighteen months later, also at the age of 64, Dad passed away with a massive heart attack. The family tree is hung with other heart problems. To complicate matters, our family had the idea that food had been placed on this earth for man to enjoy to the fullest. And we did just that, a good share of the time in much larger quantities than necessary!

At the time I began considering my health, running was coming into its own. Magazines were filled with articles on the benefits of daily exercise: running would give a feeling of vitality and a tremendous sense of well-being; runners slept better, worked better, and indeed were better persons in every way. This seemed just what I was looking for. And besides, if Lloyd was going to run to a ripe old age he might need some company; I certainly wanted it to be me!

I'm glad I read and studied a great deal before starting out seriously. There are many do's and don'ts in this business of running, and by following even simple advice you may be spared discouragement and frustration, to say nothing of injuries and sore muscles!

A physical examination is a good first step. Then begin slowly. If your body has been out of tune for years, then you certainly won't bring it back into harmony by an all-out dash that leaves you gasping, filled with panic that you have now ripped everything loose for sure. Walk a block and then jog slowly for a block, or as long as you feel able. Keep alternating until one day you find with surprise that you are jogging more than you are walking, and doing it quite comfortably. Then it's up to you how fast you want to increase your mileage and reach personal goals. Remember, though, to work toward the benefits of a strenuous exercise program mentioned by Lloyd.

The main reason people don't stay with a running program is that they just don't keep at it long enough. Discouragement sets in after a week or ten days. They convince themselves that they re ally do hate it and they're just not cut out for running. I can almost guarantee that the person who will stay by through the rough spots, and consistently run until he is doing a mile with comparative freedom, will continue with a running program.

No one could possibly fight exercise more than I did at the start. Even after six months I was still sputtering v and groaning, dreading each run. I only made it at air by continually repeating to my self, "This is better than a heart attack; this is better than a heart attack!" I still remember the day I ran a mile-and-a-quarter for the first time and suddenly realized that I had actually enjoyed it. I have found that running is a victory of strong spirit over weak flesh!

Now I'm truly hooked. I have more energy; I feel vitally alive with no tired slumps in the day. I'm better able to cope with frustrations that previously nagged me. I have goals to increase my mileage, but find that at my age I have to do so slowly. At present I run four miles four times a week. A ten-minute mile seems to be my personal pace. That's no record, but it's right for me. Endurance, not speed, is my personal objective.

I challenge preachers' wives to give running a try. All the talents and charm that you now possess will increase when you take care of the body that God has given you and feel at your very best physically and emotionally.

Lloyd: Running is a togetherness thing for the Wymans. We're not interested in racing, although we are members of a runners' club that sponsors monthly runs and a yearly marathon race. We run for fun and health. We insist, however, that we have a sound theological basis for our health kick. It is based on a wholistic concept of the person—body, mind, and spirit, the whole person. God says, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John 2).

The Greeks believed that the body was of little value. It could be abused and misused in any manner without reaping the frown of the gods. But Scripture is quite clear as to the value of the Christian's body, and makes some definite suggestions as to how he should regard and care for it. The God who made us says, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). We are then told in plain words that "God will destroy anyone who defiles his temple, for his temple is holy—and that is exactly what you are!" (chap. 3:17, Phillips).+

We cannot honor God by disregarding the care of our bodies, the very dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. What we eat, what we drink, and how we keep the body functioning may suggest something of our theological concept of the place and worth of man in God's economy.

I have recently been reviewing several studies and research projects that are still in progress in the area of the prophylactic and therapeutic effects of vigorous exercise on the human body. Thus far, the evidence strongly indicates that a vigorous life is desirable in maintaining optimum levels of health and well-being. It is particularly essential, I have dis covered, that sedentary workers (such as ministers and secretaries) make time for exercise in the open air daily, summer arid winter. Such exercise is better than medicine.

Dr. Ralph S. Paffenbarger, Jr., professor of epidemiology at Stanford School of Medicine, himself a marathon runner, has gathered some interesting facts about exercise. His study of some 17,000 Harvard alumni followed for six to ten years showed that moderate exercise is better for the heart than very little exercise, and that strenuous exercise is better than moderate. This assumes, of course, that the heart is healthy to start with.

Paffenbarger worked up a formula that assigned energy expenditure values to different activities. One flight of stairs climbed per day equals 28 kcal/week (kcal=calories); one city block, or one twelfth of a mile walked per day, equals 56 kcal/week; light sports equals 5 kcal/minute; and strenuous sports equals 10 kcal/minute. Some of his specific findings were: 1. Men expending more than 2,000 kcal/week had an age-adjusted heart attack rate of 35.3 per 10,000 man-years of observation. 2. Men who expended between 500 and 1,999 kcal/week in exercise had a heart attack rate of 53.3 per 10,000 man-years (more than 50 percent higher than the strenuous exercisers). 3. Men expending fewer than 500 kcal/week had a heart attack rate of 70.7 (more than double the rate for strenuous exercisers). 4. Both fatal and nonfatal heart attack rates were lowest among men who exercised strenuously and regularly (Medical World News, Jan. 9, 1978).

Surely one of life's tragedies is to see a minister in midlife felled by a heart at tack or a stroke, especially when it is the result of intemperance in eating habits or lack of an exercise program. These mature, seasoned, experienced leaders are always badly needed as counselors, Bible scholars, administrators, pastors, and spiritual guides to the laymen and youth of our world. But there they are, lying silent and still long before their time, their effectiveness brought to a sudden and untimely end. They had the drive to study, and the push to pursue all sorts of social and religious causes, but like Alexander the Great, they could not set controls over their own appetite and exercise program.

Don't let this happen to you. Join Donna and me and run for health. You'll be glad you did!


* You shouldn't exceed more than 80-85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

+ From J. B. Phillips: The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition. J. B. Phillips 1958, 1960, 1972. Used by permission of Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc.

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Donna and Lloyd Wyman write from Newbury Park, California. Lloyd is Ministerial secretary for the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

November 1979

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