spinal_cord_bones-300x300Our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit to dwell in (1 Corinthians 3:16). God wonderfully created each of us to be a personal, portable church. Each person is designed to be a church unique from all the others. Body, soul, and human spirit are intimately connected and what happens in one sphere directly impacts the other two (Proverbs 15:13). Our spirituality is tied to our sexuality and our emotional health is connected to our physical well-being. Taking care of our bodies gives us the necessary energy to effectively balance other spiritual graces such as prayer and fasting. We need to be especially conscious of our temple’s condition as we age beyond 35.

Why do we get old? Our life’s journey started as the union of a sperm and egg producing a single cell. This cell divided and multiplied many times to form a baby. When God said “Be fruit and multiply” (Genesis 1:29), He meant it even on the most microscopic levels.  Our cells continued this amazing process as we became a child, a teen, and finally an adult, having increase into the trillions.

Somewhere around 35-40 years old, this dividing and multiplying process stopped. Our bodies entered repair and replace mode. Damaged or dead cells are repaired and replaced.  This is necessary to keep us from looking like Goliath. This is also the age when “going over the hill” becomes a real possibility.

The master control switch that manages our cellular repair and replacement process is masterful by God’s design. It knows which cells need repair or replacing based on their usage. Cells that are no longer needed die and are not replaced. What is one way we can detect cells dying and not being replaced? Our bodies stiffen and muscles atrophy as we lose flexibility and muscle tone.

Something that helps override the master control switch preventing cell loss is regular exercise. If we don’t use it, we will lose it. The average sedentary person loses roughly 7 percent of muscle mass every 10 years after age 35.  We can easily lose 35 percent of muscle mass between the ages of 35-60. It gets worse after 60 as the process accelerates.

Now, the good news: Exercising significantly slows down the loss of muscle mass to roughly 2 percent every 10 years. A person that exercises will lose less than 10 percent muscle mass by age 60 and retain more of their body shape as they age. A person in their 50s and 60s can retain and even increase their muscle mass by lifting weights three times a week. The last thing you want to do is to stop exercising, especially after age 35. This is the time when our bodies need it the most.

The Bible says “bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 KJV). Physical training is necessary for healthy living, but godliness is more profitable in that it pays off now and eternally. Exercising spiritual disciplines is more important, but should not be a convenient excuse to allow our temple to be in poor shape.

Neck, upper and lower back, shoulders, arms, ankles, etc. are some of the first muscles to atrophy, especially if we have jobs wherein we sit all day. We can stave off upper and lower back pain and stiff ankles by stretching and strengthening.

The muscle of greatest concern is our heart. Squeeze a tennis ball and you will see how much pressure your heart exerts with every beat. That amazing muscle must  squeeze itself 100,000 times a day, 35 million times a year, and 2.5 billion times in a lifetime. A muscle working so diligently needs to stay in shape with aerobic exercises. Every little bit helps.

Changing a couple of things in our diets will not hurt either, such as limiting some salt intake. You ever see a salty ham before? The salt preserves it wherein it can sit outside in 90-degree heat and not go bad. You ever wonder what that same salt does to your meat – i.e., your internal organs?

When our back and shoulder muscles are weakened, it affects how we look. How can we look 10 pounds lighter and look years younger in minutes? The answer is having good posture. When we round our shoulders and have poor posture, we look older and heavier. If you do not believe it, try this: Get a mirror and slump your shoulders slightly forward. Notice that your stomach sticks our further, making you look a little heavier. Our body shrinks between our shoulders and stomach, making us look fatter than we really are.

Turn to your left and then to your right and check out your profile in the same position. Not too flattering, right? Now walk toward the mirror in this posture and check yourself out. You may notice that you look older, less confident, and a little dumpy.  Bad posture makes our head lean forward, making us look tired and older.

Now stand completely erect and you will immediately notice that your stomach automatically moves inward. You will also notice that you look more powerful, confident, younger, and lighter.

Poor posture makes us look pounds heavier and years older than we actually are. One of the secrets to a firmer tummy is correct posture as it forces us to hold the abdomen tighter.

Some people lose inches in height because they do not stretch out their full frame. You are no longer looking people in the eye and you appear to be getting shorter. Now you know why some days you look shorter than others. You are not the incredible, shrinking woman/man after all.

The same thing applies to sitting with good posture. Our internal organs are no longer compressed. Our vital organs need sufficient space to function properly. That crushed feeling (especially when sitting) drains us, gives us headaches, and unnecessary fatigue. Imagine how your stomach, intestines, lungs, and other internal organs feel trying to function while being compressed all day. Compressed organs are not optimized when stressed and compressed all day long.

Good posture may be a conscious effort at first if you have poor sitting and standing posture, however,  you will notice that your body has adjusted within a few days. Stretching and strengthening those vital back and shoulder muscles will help better support your spine.

Finally, have someone take your picture. Place one foot slightly in front of the other one. Instead of leaning back (as most people do), shift your weight onto your front foot and lean slightly forward, maintaining good posture. You will see that you really can take great pictures. Mama was right when she said, “Stop slouching”. You may even get a few compliments from people asking if you’ve lost weight, too.

It is challenging to fulfill our kingdom assignment when we are tired, depressed, slouchy, or otherwise unhealthy. Maintaining good posture and diet, stretching and strengthening, and praying the Word and worship are essential to maintaining a healthy balance.

 – Apostle Phillip A. Walker