(Photo: screen grab)
Samir Becic, a world renowned fitness trainer who leads health classes at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, has compiled a "Top 10 Fittest Christian Leaders" list of U.S. pastors who do a good job of balancing their spiritual lives along with health and proper nutrition.
Becic's list, that he released exclusively to The Christian Post, includes pastors Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Chuck Bernal. The list was made after his team at Health Fitness Revolution did research on each leader, taking into account how they promote a healthy lifestyle as well as how many people they reach with the Gospel message.
"Some of them had major health problems that they overcame with a healthy lifestyle," Becic told CP. "They can be great ambassadors for the Christian community that might be struggling with their physical health."
Many Christians tend to overlook the quality of their health, said Becic, who believes they may not realize that being in good physical shape is one of the key components of spiritual health as well. According to a 2011 Northwestern University study that tracked 3,433 men and women for 18 years, young adults who attend church or a bible study once a week are 50 percent more likely to be obese.
He hopes his list will inspire many more to follow in the footsteps of pastors who are pioneers in linking spiritual well-being with physical health.
"Considering that 60 to 70 percent of illnesses can be managed, controlled, or completely avoided with fitness, healthy nutrition and spiritual balance, we need to convince spiritual leaders to support this idealism through any means available, and motivate them to both lead by example and spread the message," said Becic.
He plans to target other leaders who have a platform to reach the masses but who may not advocate health as an important factor in Christian's lives. He also hopes to educate 100 churches this year on how to implement fitness programs within their congregations.
Below are the 10 fittest Christian leaders, listed in random order, along with Becic's reasons why they made the list.
1. Pastor Joel Osteen
"The 50-year-old preacher made headlines in 2012 when he was pictured in Hawaii with six-pack abs, which is a testament in itself to how much he exercises," said Becic. "Osteen frequently posts diet and fitness advice on his website, encouraging people to take care of their temple, limit sugar and drink more water. He also cares about the health of his congregation which is why he appointed me to lead the health and fitness program at his megachurch."
2. Father Mark Ivany
"Mark Ivany who leads Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Washington, D.C., believes that eating well and staying in good shape is going to add to his service as a priest. He was an all-American lacrosse player in college and says he doesn't like the gym, so he would rather motivate students, friends, and family to be active in social sports," said Becic.
3. Pastor Steve Spear
"49 year-old Steve Spear, who took up running just five years ago, ran coast to coast, which totals 3,081 miles from Los Angeles to New York in five months, averaging 170 miles a week, or a marathon a day," Becic explained. "The Chicago-area pastor quit his job at Willow Creek Church last year to focus on raising $1.5 million to provide clean water for 30,000 people living in Kenya."
4. Pastor Chuck Bernal
"Chuck Bernal, the lead pastor at LifePointe Church in Dallas, Texas, wasn't always the picture of health. In 2010, he started his health journey weighing in at 336 lbs. however, after 13 months of hard work he got to a healthy weight of 220 lbs. that he has managed to maintain for 18 months now. His daily secrets to success include eating five small meals, drinking over 100 ounces of water, using the elliptical for 45 minutes in addition to going to the gym and exercising at least five times a week," said Becic.
5. Pastor Scott Bennefield
"Known as the "Ironman Pastor," Bennefield of New Covenant Church in New Mexico, began running in 1991 as a normal guy with a minimal athletic background. He has had seven Ironman finishes since then, the first being at age 4," said Becic. "He is passionate about assisting others to run the "race of life" with passion and purpose and he currently leads the Faith and Fitness program at his church."
6. Msgr. Rick Hilgartner
"Monsignor Hilgartner has said modern technology and transportation advances have helped create a more sedentary life for humans in the past century, including priests," said Becic. "It's one of the reasons why this 45-year-old priest makes time to work out daily in the gym. In fact, running has become a passion for him and he has participated in many marathons in recent years."
7. Pastor Rick Warren
"Warren had an epiphany one day while he was baptizing 858 people. After dipping the 500th body into the water, he thought 'we're all fat.' That triggered him to create a health program with leading experts such as Dr. Oz that Christians could follow. He also wrote the book, "The Daniel Plan," which Warren lost over 30 pounds by following," said Becic.
8. Pastor Heather Lindsey
"Heather, who co-pastors with her husband Cornelius Lindsey at The Gathering Oasis Church in Atlanta, knows what it takes to stay healthy and fit after working as a TV host in the entertainment industry. In 2012, she founded The Pinky Promise, an organization that promotes honoring God with your life & body and has also written "The Perfect Recipe," which is geared towards women who desire to get closer to Christ, eat healthier and feel better," said Becic.
9. Pastor Chris Townsend
"This pastor is so committed to fitness that he shows his congregation at Emanuel Lutheran Church in California that they can truly make time to be fit by brining stationary bikes, treadmills, and yoga balls to the pulpit!," said Becic. "But his main message is to be physically and spiritually fit. So far, he's lost 35 pounds and wants to lose another 25 to 30 pounds to reach his goal weight. In addition to exercise, Townsend has also completely cut out caffeine from his diet."
10. Pastor Jeff Kapusta
"Kapusta, lead pastor at Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, N.C., has a personal blog where he writes about fitness and admits that he hadn't realized how much being in ministry could be hazardous to his health," said Becic. "He maintains his healthy lifestyle by biking, surfing, running, and taking on fitness programs such as P90X, Insanity, and CrossFit. However, he actually managed to get down to his ideal weight of 163lbs by following the Paleo Diet."
On the Web: http://healthfitnessrevolution.com.