In high school, distance running was one of my strengths. Now, I walk. That’s, of course, not the only change I’ve had to make in the last few years. The effects of aging are affecting every area of my life.
Mind, body, and soul—we are integrated beings. The Bible verifies this in Christ, the One who put on humanity when He stepped into time and history. In the Gospels we read that during Jesus’ time on earth, He wept, faced temptations, experienced hunger and thirst, endured the pain of crucifixion, and felt abandonment while on the cross.
Physical, emotional, and spiritual, He felt it all. Integration was embodied in the life of Christ.
Made in His image, we know that we are integrated beings. Further, the Bible speaks also about our integration (Mark 12:30) and tells us that one aspect of our being can affect another (Mark 14:38).
As the aches, and pains, and slowness come, we must never forget the fact that we are integrated beings, and that means caring for our entire being.
As you strive for fitness after 50, consider these 11 ideas to strengthen your mind, body, and soul.
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Biblical Fitness Ideas for Your Mind
1. Engage in aerobic exercise regularly.
Aerobic exercise is good for your brain. It stimulates blood flow, triggers the release of a special protein that is responsible for the growth of new brain cells, and stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus (the area of the brain involved in memory, learning, and decision making).
Additionally, according to John Medina, Ph.D., director of the Seattle Pacific University Brain Center for Applied Learning Research, aerobic exercise slashes your risk of general dementia by 60 percent and your lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in half (www.aarp.org).
2. Learn something new.
Online courses, podcasts, and webinars abound, and many are available at no cost. Sign up for an online course on a topic of interest to you, listen to a podcast while driving, or take advantage of a free webinar while doing a routine chore.
Commit yourself to learning new things, it’s great strength training for your mind.
3. Occupy yourself with a hobby.
Hobbies are a great way of keeping the mind sharp. In addition to improving focus and concentration, hobbies help ease our worries and stress.
Life after 50 provides opportunity for reengaging with a hobby that was shelved in earlier years due to the busyness of life or for discovering a new one. Consider crossword puzzles or sudoku for challenging your mental capacities; running or dancing to add a physical strengthening element; or fishing, photography, or reading for pure enjoyment.
4. Engage in stimulating conversation.
Surround yourself with interesting people and engage them in conversation. Face-to-face conversation requires thinking on our feet and provides opportunity for learning something new. Both of which help strengthen the mind.
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Biblical Fitness Ideas for Your Body
5. Get active.
Strengthen your body through physical exercise. We’re not talking marathons or triathlons here (however if these are already part of your repertoire, keep it up)!
Simply by being MORE active each day, you can boost your immune system and maintain, or even prevent, many chronic illnesses.
For encouragement in your exercise efforts, select exercises that you find enjoyable, develop an accountability system, and/or keep a record of your activities.
6. Learn to relax.
Our bodies are not designed for continuous work. It’s important that we learn to relax. Yes, learn. Our bodies can be taught to relax.
One way to relax the body is through deep breathing exercises. Two simple, easy ones to get you started are the equal breathing and 4-7-8 breathing methods.
Equal Breathing – Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four, all through the nose.
4-7-8 Breathing – To a count of four, inhale through the nose. Hold the breath for a count of seven. Then exhale through the mouth for a count of eight.
Information on these and other deep breathing exercises for relaxation can be found via a quick Google search.
7. Develop healthy eating habits.
According to the National Institute on Aging, as we grow older our metabolism can slow and our body composition can be different than when we were younger. Good nutrition, therefore, is essential.
- Begin each day with a healthy breakfast. It sets your metabolism for the day.
- Make sure fruits and vegetables are part of your daily diet.
- Vary your proteins by eating more fish, beans, and lean meats.
- Learn to substitute with more healthy options—mustard for mayo, popcorn for pretzels, Greek yogurt for sour cream, etc.
8. Get enough sleep.
We are created for sleep. In fact, all of creation sleeps. Help your body out by getting the required minimum eight to nine hours of sleep each night.
We’re not talking about eight to nine hours of unconsciousness. Rather, it’s head-on-the-pillow to head-off-the-pillow time. There are five stages of sleep and our body needs to experience each one.
Tips for enjoying a good night’s sleep:
- Get as much daylight as possible and sleep in darkness.
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Avoid caffeine during the late afternoon and evening hours.
- Observe a “no screen time” policy for at least thirty minutes before bed.
- Can’t sleep? Do deep breathing exercises such as the 4-7-8 technique, pray for whatever or whoever is on your mind, or recite Scripture.
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Biblical Fitness Ideas for Your Soul
9. Meditate on Scripture.
Biblical meditation is the act of carefully considering a passage of Scripture in its original context, mulling over its full meaning, and evaluating its application to our own life. It is an active process, engaging the mind. It is not the meditation of Eastern Mysticism which is one of emptying the mind.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. – John 1:8
There are many ways to meditate on Scripture – reading it thoughtfully, reading aloud, reading the same passage several times emphasizing a different word each time, reading with a pen, making lists, writing it out by hand, rewriting the passage in your own words, praying it, and more.
No matter what method is chosen, Biblical meditation is exercise for the soul.
10. Show gratitude.
Research shows that gratitude improves our physical and psychological health and increases our mental strength.
For the believer in Christ, gratitude is soul strengthening work. It helps open our spiritual eyes to see God working in and around us, helps us sense His presence, and draws us to Him. Gratitude glorifies God as we offer our thanksgiving and exalt Him as the Giver of every good gift.
11. Persevere in prayer.
Prayer is a precious gift given to us by a loving Father.
It invites us to bring all our concerns about our loved ones to Him and permits us to release to Him what we ourselves cannot control. Prayer also closes the heart-felt gaps we feel with other family members whether due to geographical or generational distance. These works of prayer are a balm for our souls as they help to replace our worry with the peace of God.
Prayer also displays the faithfulness, sovereignty, and goodness of God, helping to draw us closer to Him. It is nourishment and strength for our soul.
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Take Care of Your Entire Well Being
Our distance running may have turned to walking. There may be a need to slow down or spend less time on any one fitness activity, but care of our entire being is still essential.
After all, as we read in the book of Mark, what affects one area of our life can certainly affect another.
Fitness after fifty is essential—mind, body, and soul.
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Deborah Haddix is the author of Soul Nourishment: Satisfying Our Deep Longing for God. She also serves as co-director of Education and Resources for Christian Grandparenting Network’s Prayer Ministry. Deborah writes, blogs, speaks, and coaches on topics related to biblical grandparenting, other life relationships, and soul care. Read the blog and find resources at her website.