I may not be speaking for all of us here in the Dalhousie community, but until recently I had never considered “praying and seeking God’s wisdom” as a step on the path to improved physical fitness. However, with the fear of the freshman 15 looming, I decided to look into the faith-fitness connection.
Apparently, I’m not the first. From meditative yoga to spiritual aerobics, the market is flooded with faith-based workouts. As Michelle Spadafora, founder of Faithful Workouts, writes, “when you put your focus on doing your best for God, exercise is more enjoyable, rewarding and effective.” Spadafora’s workouts promise to “put your focus where it belongs – on God” through the use of “faith-building songs.” This spiritual soundtrack will “improve your overall health, your physical appearance and reduce your stress.”
Brad Bloom, publisher of the online Faith & Fitness Magazine, expressed a similar view in a recent interview with the Dal Gazette. Bloom, who is “not the traditional type of minister,” started his zine in November 2003 and his readership has been growing steadily ever since.
The magazine started from his frustration with typical fitness publications: “Many of the magazines often have good fitness content. However, they are borderline soft porn (well maybe not even border-line or soft) and they cover sex topics – lots of sex topics – from a very secular point of view. Not quite what you would want your child to see or what you would have sitting next to your Bible on the coffee table.”
He sought to produce a fitness magazine that would not only be child-appropriate, but that would “help people build physical and spiritual strength.”
For Bloom, the two are inextricably connected. Akin to Spadafora’s claim, Bloom suggests that “giving your exercise time to God increases the likelihood that you will be committed to your fitness goals.
Dealing with your spiritual challenges improves your ability to achieve and maintain your physical fitness goals.”
Bloom argues that his magazine goes beyond “the tacky, carefully packaged, overly religious and restricted style of the vast majority of Christian content in today’s marketplace.”
“We work to produce content that is challenging,” he says. “I don’t want to make a magazine that is simply nice Christian reading. I don’t think that is very useful. I want the Christian reader to grow.”
But what about the non-Christian reader? Bloom claims that Faith & Fitness nurtures those readers as well. Though the magazine is unabashedly Christian, the fundamental point is about the connection between the material and the spiritual. The main message is motivation.
“Faith & Fitness Magazine targets the core elements that trigger motivation: passion, desire, and commitment. It does it in new ways by connecting attitudes and spiritual dynamics to our personal physical world … It works because it helps people tap into their deepest beliefs and their heart-felt ideals. It helps them connect at the very root of ‘want’ where motivation and faith become virtually synonymous.”
So for those of us with a strong faith, we might want to think about connecting our religious beliefs, whatever they may be, to our workouts. As for the rest of us, I think the main message to be taken from the faith-fitness ideology is this: though on the surface our fitness routines may seem to be about sloughing off those extra pounds, exercise, like anything else, is a mental and spiritual journey that requires strong motivation and commitment, whether grounded in religious faith or not.