Choose your medicine

For optimal pastoral well-being, exercise is a critical ingredient.

Peter N. Landless, MB, BCh, MFamMed, MFGP (SA), FCP (SA), FACC, FASNC, is the director of Health Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Some time ago, I received the following question: “I am a 35-year-old female and enjoy good health. I am very busy as a mother, wife, and schoolteacher. I don’t get to exercise much and have a family history of breast cancer. Does exercise really reduce the risk of breast cancer?” From my interaction with clergy, the same letter could well have been written. Does exercise really reduce the risk of chronic disease? 

Why should I?

Simple answer, yes. Regular exer-cise is not only a preventive measure; it also works to maintain health at its best, is protective, and provides many bene-fits. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAGA) Advisory Committee, comprising 13 leading experts in the field of exercise science and public health, summarizes the benefits of exercise in the table opposite.

What should I?

Exercise is a form of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and performed with the goal of improv-ing health and fitness. Regular exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer in women. More than 150 years ago, counsel was given, “Walking, in all cases where it is possible, is the best exercise, because in walking, all the muscles are brought into action Burden of Disease Study, not only was the protective effect of regular exercise confirmed for breast cancer, it was shown that there is benefit in even the lower activity level groups (150 minutes of walking per week). The protection increases in the moderately and highly active groups. A similar pat-tern emerged for the benefit of exercise in protecting against colon cancer, diabetes, and coronary artery disease and stroke.

Health Benefits Associated With Regular Physical Activity



   Strong Evidence

  • Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
  • Improved bone health
  • Improved cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers
  • Favorable body composition

  Moderate Evidence

  • Reduced symptoms of depression


   Strong Evidence

  • Lower risk of early death
  • Lower risk of coronary heart disease
  • Lower risk of stroke
  • Lower risk of high blood pressure
  • Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profile
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of metabolic syndrome
  • Lower risk of colon cancer
  • Lower risk of breast cancer
  • Prevention of weight gain
  • Weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
  • Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
  • Prevention of falls
  • Reduced depression
  • Better cognitive function (for older adults)


  • Better functional health (for older adults)
  • Reduced abdominal obesity


  • Lower risk of hip fracture
  • Lower risk of lung cancer
  • Weight maintenance after weight loss
  • Increased bone density
  • Improved sleep quality

When should I? 

Compelling evidence continues to emerge proving that people who are physically active for approximately seven hours a week have a 40-percent lower risk of dying prematurely than those who are active for fewer than 30 minutes a week. There is substantially lower risk of premature death when people do two and a half hours of at least moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week. The findings of the studies that have led to these rec-ommendations are applicable across nations and ethnicities.

“Choose ye this day”

We are victims of the tyranny of an overfilled schedule. Despite all our time- and labor-saving devices, we struggle to find time to care for the fitness of our bodies and, even more sadly, the well-being of our relationship with Christ—both of these activities require time and intentional planning. Our wholeness of body, mind, and spirit depends on the priorities we choose.

A pastor complained to his spouse about the bitter medicine his doctor had prescribed and the restrictive regime he was now compelled to endure. His wife said to him, “Either you go to the gym or you go to the hospital. You choose your medicine.” Unless pastors intentionally embark on an exercise regime, they will succumb to the pressures of pastoral life. Take time to exercise—it could mean life or death. Choose your medicine.

1. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, October 7,2008, 9–12, /pdf/paguide.pdf.

2. Ellen G. White, “Experience,” The Health Reformer, July 1, 1872, 219.

3  World Health Organization, “Physical Activity, “ February 23, 2018, /news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

Peter N. Landless, MB, BCh, MFamMed, MFGP (SA), FCP (SA), FACC, FASNC, is the director of Health Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

November 2018

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Letters to the Editors

Readers weigh in on recent Ministry articles.

Are you fit to lead?

God’s gift of health is a matter of life and death. Preach it to others but be blessed by it yourself.

The wounds of abuse: Can we do more?

If ever we needed informed and accountable pastors before, we surely do need them now.

Fixed up or burned out?

The satisfaction of having done something well, knowing that it has had an impact, being proud of it, or receiving recognition and appreciation from others are rewards that may be far more valuable than money.

The missing health ingredient—love

These three things remain—diet, exercise, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

A living health for a dying world

The hymn writer describes well the problem: “Change and decay in all around I see.” Thank God, there is an answer: “O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”

Staying sane in an insane world

Pastors must cultivate the ability and capacity to withstand and adapt appropriately in times of stress and adversity—for everyone’s sake.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - RevivalandReformation 300x250

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - SermonView - WideSkyscraper (160x600)