Is your church physically literate?

In a world becoming increasingly sedentary, our churches should begin to focus attention on the importance of physical fitness at all ages.

Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Ministries Department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Many members of our worldwide church pride themselves on what they know about good nutrition. Indeed, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been a leader for more than 100 years in communicating the simple principles of a wholesome and nutritious diet. Modern research continues to validate the benefits of these principles.

Yet health is more than what we eat—although to listen to some members you might be led to think otherwise! Physical fitness is a keystone to good health. From time to time I hear some ask the question, “Which is more important, exercise or diet?” An attempt to answer this question leads me to ask another, “Would you rather live without your heart, or brain?” Obviously, we need both! The same is true of physical fitness and nutrition—they are equally important.

In a world becoming increasingly sedentary, our churches should begin to focus attention on the importance of physical fitness at all ages. It is easy to relate literacy to reading and writing—skills essential to success in life. Similarly, the importance of physical literacy is relatively new and includes the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engaging in purpose­ful physical activities for life.1

Physical literacy training best begins in childhood with the develop­ment of basic motor skills such as running, jumping, hopping, skipping, and galloping, along with kicking, catching, and striking appropriate objects. When young people learn to move, this provides them with the ability to be active for life.

How does the elementary or high school associated with your church do in teaching physical literacy to your young people? Providing opportunities for children to practice movement skills in both structured and unstructured play is critical. Young people need the opportunity to develop confidence in their skills. When they get this, they are far more likely to lead a more active lifestyle as adults.

The benefits of physical literacy extend to many areas of life. Ellen White explains, “Sound health lies at the very foundation of the student’s success. Without it, he can never see the fruition of his ambitions and his hopes. Hence a knowledge of the laws by which health is secured and preserved is of preeminent importance. The human body may be compared to nicely adjusted machinery, which needs care to keep it in running order. One part should not be subjected to constant wear and pressure, while another part is rusting from inaction. While the mind is taxed, the muscles also should have their proportion of exercise. Every young person should learn how to regulate his dietetic habits,—what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat. He should also learn how many hours may be spent in study, and how much time should be given to physical exercise.”2

Government agencies and health organizations today recommend 60 minutes of physical activity per day for good health. Yet it is well documented that most youth and adults do not meet these current recommendations. Are you meeting this goal daily?

Many years ago God gave our church important council on this topic that was ahead of its time. “All who can possibly do so ought to walk in the open air every day, summer and winter. But the clothing should be suitable for the exercise, and the feet should be well protected. A walk, even in winter, would be more beneficial to the health than all the medicine the doctors may prescribe.”3

 

You will find that it is not difficult to incorporate more physical activity into your church program. Here are some very practical ideas:

 

  • Set a good example: take a walk after a meal, with your family if possible.
  • Go to a park and play, hike, or swim.
  • Turn off the electronic screens for at least an hour a day to engage in some wholesome physical activity.
  • Go to the grade school and join the kids in recess outside.
  • Invite your church board or committee to stand instead of sit.
  • When someone wants to counsel with you, invite them for a walk while you and they talk.
  • Plan church activities that involve physical activities such as camping, hiking, and movement games.
  • Organize community fun runs followed by a wholesome breakfast and fellowship.
  • Encourage your members and the community to participate in physical activity campaigns such as Adventists InStep for Life.4
  • Organize regular physical fitness classes for your community.

 

These simple activities can go a long way to improving the physical literacy of your church members and community.

 

1 Wikipedia, s.v. “Physical Literacy,” last modified October 10, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Physical_literacy.

 

2 Ellen G. White, “Right Methods in Education,” Signs of the Times, August 26, 1886, 513.

 

3 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assoc., 1948), 529.

4 Adventists InStep for Life, http://www.adventistsinstepforlife.org

 

2 Ellen G. White, “Right Methods in Education,” Signs of the Times, August 26, 1886, 513.

 

3 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assoc., 1948), 529.

4 Adventists InStep for Life, http://www.adventistsinstepforlife.org

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Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Ministries Department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

January 2016

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