I will be brief. Spiritual vs. Physical exercise:
So, the question then is: how do you exercise yourself spiritually? It is simply by engaging in spiritual activities such as going to church regularly, praying in tongues consistently, studying God’s Word, and sharing it with others, and serving in any capacity in the church of God.
So let’s take a look at what it really means, why it matters, and how to strengthen your mind, body, and soul connection in 13 steps.
The mind, body, and soul connection
If you’ve ever been so stressed it made you physically sick or witnessed such beauty it felt like a spiritual experience, you’ve experienced a mind-body-soul connection.
A holistic approach to well-being involves bringing these three aspects of the self into balance to create harmony and health.
These 8 daily exercises will help you have a more joyful and stress-free life, as well as strengthen you spiritually and physically:
1.- For the tongue
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”, for this reason it is necessary to read and treasure every day a portion of the Word of God, since the more Bible words you have in you, the easier will be to manifest them with your mouth. Speak words that edify others and not words that destroy them (Ephesians 4:29).
2.- For the head
Get rid of all negative thoughts, for this you need to focus your mind on the good things. Review the promises of God in His Word, in this way you will learn to trust God and have the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
3.- For strength
Strengthen your spirit through prayer and reading the Bible. The best way to stand firm in the face of daily trials is to seek the Lord’s face each morning, always remembering that your strength comes from Him (Psalm 28: 7).
4.- For the face
A happy heart makes the face cheerful; It is important to cleanse your heart every day, since hatred, resentment and anger are negative agents that end up making a person have cold feelings; losing the ability to be accessible to others(Proverbs 15:13.)
5.- For the heart
Life flows from the heart, that is why it is so important to take care of it, to remove from it all the things that can cause pain, sadness or anguish. Every morning ask God to clean your heart and take out of it everything that is not according to His will (Proverbs 4:23).
6.- For the eyes
Always look on the bright side of every circumstance. Don’t let the environment around you affect you, instead, everyday trey to see the positive side of each situation and person (Romans 8:28).
7.- For the ears
Keep good advice. Keep listening to the things that really build you up, and forget about any negative comments that keep you from moving forward, speaking less and listening more (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
8.- For the soul
Always walk hand in hand with God, cultivate an intimate and deep relationship with your Heavenly Father. It is necessary to go to His presence every day to know Him more and you can be filled in all areas (Deuteronomy 4:29).
What does the Bible say about fitness, and can Jesus and the gym be connected?
I’ll start with the verses we typically use around exercise, but may we be careful not to pull these out of context and make them into fitness rules. My hope here is to display Scripture as truth to inform and guide our movement practice, not to define it.
What I’ve found over the years is that the Bible does not prescribe fitness in any one way. I’ll lay out some verses, but go ahead and ask God what He means for you and your relationship with exercise in light of His Word.
May this post open your minds and hearts from a narrow view of fitness to joyful movement and obedience to the One who loves us and moves toward us.
Verses for Exercise Inspiration
We will start with a narrow view and handpick a few Scriptures we typically use with physical activity, then continue to zoom out and broaden our focus of how we think of fitness and how movement is described in the Bible.
May you read each of the following in a way that takes you out of the bonds of any one fitness ideal and brings you into the freedom of grace, for joy.
- Mark 12:30
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
Loving God with all of our everything includes our bodies. Note that this verse does not have parameters about how to love God with all your strength. That is something you will discover as you go. There is freedom to move in love!
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:23
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23
The Bible does not focus only on our spiritual growth, but includes our bodies as integral to our self as loved and called by God. The aim is not to reach our own body goals, but to do all by grace, with eager anticipation of Jesus coming again. May all your movements be in view of the Lord coming at any time!
3. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27
“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27
Disciplining our body like Paul is talking about here is an effort to keep our whole selves restrained from sin for the prize of knowing Christ and Him crucified. Read more in “Is Not Exercising a Sin?” May your exercise habits be meaningful and intentional.
4. 2 Timothy 2:5
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:5
Paul enjoys using athletic imagery to connect with his Greek and Roman audiences, who could relate to this kind of training. We also can relate, and we know that the “rules” Jesus has given us are these: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Let us be trained by the standards of love.
5. Romans 12:1
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
This verse refers to giving our whole selves to the Lord, including our bodies. If He says “go,” we must be ready, just as an athlete trains speed and agility to be ready to turn on a dime. May active worship keep you fit and ready for the Kingdom.
6. Isaiah 40:31
“…[B]ut they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
As Christians, we do not depend on our strength by our own works of fitness, but we wait on the Lord. He is the one who renews our strength, both in this life and the one to come. As you walk and run, meditate on this verse and let it be a source of hope for what is to come and what is already yours in Christ.
7. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Glorifying God in your body means recognizing that being alive in your body is an immense gift. Let us take each breath with deep gratitude, and revere God through all of our actions. Let exercise be an offering of thanksgiving!
8. Psalm 73:26
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
Confession: I used to use this verse to keep myself from eating, but now as an intuitive eater I see this as a divine comfort. Even when we get tired and weak, we can rejoice in knowing God is always our source of true strength!
9. Proverbs 31:17
“She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” Proverbs 31:17
Our identity does not lie in how strong or weak we are physically. We can “put on” strength as an adornment for our season and service, but let this verse be a reminder that it is something that can also be taken off, and we will still remain in the Lord. Know that God has empowered you with the ability to make your body strong. This is a gift to enjoy!
10. Ephesians 4:15-16
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16
As we move with others, may our bodies and this verse be a reminder that we are connected as joints and are called to build up one another in love. When thinking on fitness intentions, ask yourself, will this building up the Kingdom in love?
11. 2 Timothy 4:7-8
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
Training and completing a race builds endurance, and can teach us what it’s like to persevere in love and to stay in step with the Spirit throughout life. Following God can feel like a fight, and the right activities can help us stay focused.
12. 1 Timothy 4:8
“…[F]or while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
Training your body is of some value, yes, but don’t sacrifice it at the expense of your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. May your movement flow from the fruit of the Spirit, which will last forever.
13. Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Paul uses another running analogy here to help us picture the stands filled with the faithful, reminding us we are not alone. Remove all the unnecessary “shoulds” from your life, including what exercise should look like. Walk freely, lightly, and single-minded in your mission with all the saints.
14. Hebrews 12:12-13
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13
Following along with Hebrews, the author speaks of alignment and integration, something we feel in our spirit that often connects and communicates with our body and vice versa. Move your body in agreement with your soul’s worship and find healing.
15. 2 Samuel 6:14
“And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.” 2 Samuel 6:14
Now we are really getting into some joyful movement! David danced out of pure joy before the Lord, not before men. He didn’t care what he looked like, and neither should we. Let us be moved by the Lord, not resist the overflowing joy, and let our light shine before men.
Finding Fitness in the Bible
The above verses talk about training and perseverance, but what about the actual mode of fitness? What did the people of the Bible do with their bodies to stay in the game? Where did Samson strength train? And why doesn’t the Bible have more rules about exercising like we do?
Fitness became a whole revolution in itself after the industrial revolution, so biblical times predate the necessity for the average joe to hit the gym. Life was more physically demanding in biblical times and necessitated regular activity.
We can find all kinds of movement all throughout the Bible: most occupations started out with agriculture and raising children, people traveled by foot, fought with their hands, and made a living with very little technology as we know it today. Jesus Himself was a carpenter and manual laborer, He and his disciples traveled and ministered on foot, and hiked mountains to pray. And we must not forget that worship itself is primarily physical:
The Bible describes worship in physical terms. The root meaning for the Hebrew word we translate worship is ‘to prostrate.’ The word bless literally means ‘to kneel.’ Thanksgiving refers to ‘an extension of the hand.’ Throughout Scripture we find a variety of physical postures in connection with worship: lying prostrate, standing, kneeling, lifting the hands, clapping the hands, lifting the head, bowing the head, dancing, and wearing sackcloth and ashes. The point is that we are to offer God our bodies as well as all the rest of our being. Worship is appropriately physical. We are to present our bodies to God in a posture consistent with the inner spirit in worship.
—Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Here are a few examples of moving: walking, hiking, running, and dancing, although I’m sure you can find plenty more now that you know what you’re looking for!
Walking with God: “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:24
Praise and worship: “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.” Exodus 15:20
Running when excited:
“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” Matthew 28:8
“Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” John 20:4
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
Here’s how we see Jesus move:
Hiked: “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Matthew 14:23
Ministered on foot: “And he had to pass through Samaria.” John 4:4
Worked as a carpenter: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Mark 6:3
We can trace movement all throughout the Bible, the first being in Genesis 3 when we see God walking in the cool of the garden, looking for Adam and Eve, presumably to pick them up for a regular walk with Him. Our takeaway here is this: the origin of fitness is always about moving with God, our creator, who designed us to be fruitful and multiply and have our bodies to play in His good creation!
Joyful Movement is Delightful Obedience
Let’s broaden the scope of fitness to obedient movement and look for action words, strength words, words that involve our bodies responding to obedience. This includes walking forward or turning back in repentance, lifting joyful hands, or bowing sorrowful knees.
Fitness is not just going to the gym or running. Fitness is a subset of joyful movement, and joyful movement by grace is the act of following Jesus for joy. I have bolded the action words in the verses below as examples:
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” Luke 17:19
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward’” Exodus 14:15
Yet wherever we go, whether we are running away from Him or can’t move a muscle, God is with us: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Psalm 139:7-8
Here’s another fun exercise: highlight or underline in green any action words you see as you read the Bible. Let these words break open your definition of biblical fitness as you ask God what actions He wants you to take in response to Him.
Joyful Movement in Creation
Let’s take another step back and look at how creation itself moves for joy.
If in the beginning, God spoke creation into being with a word of His mouth (Genesis 1), and Jesus is said to be the Word of God, who was there at the start: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-2); then creation speaks of God’s movement too. Let us observe all the movement around us with our eyes and let it be confirmed with the written Word. We are surrounded by movement!
“In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.” Psalm 19:5
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
“He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them.” Psalm 104:3-8
The next time you are outside, look for movement not just in you but all around you. Look at the trees clapping their hands, the hills singing, and see all joyful movement as worship to the joyful Creator.
Joyful Movement Within 5 Biblical Purposes of the Body
Moving with our body is teleological—that means God designed our bodies to move and our whole selves to be rewarded by walking in this purpose! Here I have listed five biblical purposes of the body and how movement is part of our worship. These 5 verses are the core of my book Move for Joy: An Intuitive Training Approach to Pursue God in Fitness and Find Happiness.
Here is why movement is important to the formation of body and soul:
Because your body is God’s temple…
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” -1 Corinthians 6:19
…and is your covering in Christ
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12
…you are a member of His greater body
“…[S]ince we are part of the body of Christ: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:15-16
…and can be fit and ready for God’s work
“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:21
as you move for the joy of the Lord!
“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” 2 Corinthians 5:9, NIV
May the written Word, the environment He created, and the body He made speak of God’s goodness as you rest in grace and move for joy!