Could Working Out Be Considered an Act of Worship?

Students practice antigravity yoga at a training room in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 11, 2015. The use of hammocks help practicers to release pressure from their spines and reshape their bodies, according to local media reports. | (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)

Why should physical fitness be a mundane or dreaded activity if you can spend time exalting God while doing so?

While some may raise their eyebrows at this notion, others are making this budding belief system their reality. Celebrities such as Kierra Sheard, the 27-year-old gospel singer who released her fifth studio album Graceland last summer, recognize the power of incorporating fitness and faith.

Sheard recently took to Instagram to let fans know that she's working on her fitness. The daughter of Grammy Award-winning singer Karen Clark Sheard and Bishop J. Drew Sheard of the Greater Emmanuel Church of God in Christ in Detroit, encouraged her social media followers by letting them know that they, too, can worship by exercising.

"How you treat your body is even an act of worship! Let's go! #motivation #workoutMusic," Kierra wrote to over 250,000 followers on Instagram. "Get your heart where it should be! Cancel out diseases and health issues! #GO."

Despite being touted by people like Sheard, the concept of worshiping God while working out may raise questions for Christians and nonbelievers alike. Although the Bible doesn't provide detailed workout plans, it may give people some insight about how to take care of their bodies.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 it states, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (KJV)."

Michelle Spadafora, the president and founder of Faithful Workouts, looks to this scripture as an example of God telling His people to glorify Him with their bodies. While some exercise to maintain good health, others do so to show their newly chiseled and slimmed down bodies off to the world.

The fitness expert points out scriptures such as 1 Samuel 16:7 to prove God doesn't care about outward appearances and Proverbs 29:23 to provide an example in Scripture where God detests pride. However, Spadafora believes it's important to develop the right motives for working out in order to exalt God with exercise.

"If our sole reason for exercising and eating healthy is to have a great-looking body that will impress others, then our actions are not in line with God's will and it is not a form of worship," Spadafora told The Christian Post. "However, if we are taking proper care of our body because we want to be at our best for God's service, it is absolutely a form of worship. I am not saying it's a bad thing to have a healthy, strong-looking body, but that shouldn't be our main focus."

Spadafora's Faithful Workouts is a nonprofit ministry that designs faith-centered fitness regime for people by providing exercise videos, hundreds of recipes, cooking videos, menu plans, faith-based music and inspirational messages. While the fitness expert has been in the industry for 30 years, she started making her Christian faith the forefront of her workouts in 2007.

Now, Spadafora has developed her own methods for helping people "finally break free from fitness frustration" in a godly way by using the ABC's. The "A" in the fitness expert's plan stands for "ask," a concept that is outlined in biblical scriptures such as John 16:24 and Matthew 7:7.

"Why is it so many Christians don't ask for God's help in every area of our lives, including healthy dieting and exercise? The truth is, He cares about all parts of your life," Spadafora said. "When we ask God to help us and our motives are in line with His will, He will help us."

The "B" in her method stands for "believe," since Spadafora insists it's important to understand that confidence should come from a belief in God's word and power to transform. The "C" stands for people "checking their motives."

Aside from the ABC's, Spadafora finds that exercising is a great time to listen to music, or God's word.

"Not only does it motivate me to push harder, it also keeps my focus on God. When we exercise, chemical changes happen in our brain which allows us to retain more information," she explained. "So when I listen to Christian music while exercising, the lyrics of the song are getting into my mind and I end up singing God's praises throughout my day."

This concept isn't foreign to people such as Jill Dillard from TLC's "19 Kids & Counting" who's been vocal about listening to sermons while working out pregnant.

"Walking at the gym this morning while listening to a sermon by pastor Rick Warren on the #OnePlace app!" Dillard posted to Instagram with a photo of herself last January.

Eric Nordhoff, the founder of SpiritFit Music, uses his company to provide a variety of workout music mixes for personal workouts and fitness classes. The clean lyrics and various styles of fitness music are produced from a Christian worldview.

After working for Christian music record labels for 10 years, Nordhoff decided to start his business in 2010 in order to encourage believers in their personal workouts. He spoke to CP about some practical suggestions people can use to worship while working out.

"While working out, try listening to uplifting and encouraging music ... music that feeds your soul, music you can worship to, " he said. "Try to focus on your relationship with Christ and how good He is to you while you're working out. If you're alone, you could even try singing to Him or think of Him as your workout buddy."

Nordhoff likens physical fitness to people giving a gift back to God.

"We were made to be in balance, perfect harmony: body, mind and spirit. It takes discipline and self-denial to do a workout that really changes your body, and the feeling you get when you've accomplished it is (like) no other," he added. "It's almost a spiritual experience and so much more when we know, as believers, what Christ first did for us. It's truly a gift back to Him when we complete a good workout and take care of the very thing He has given to us."

For more information about Eric Nordhoff and SpiritFit Music, click here. To find out more about Michelle Spadafora and Faithful Workouts, click here.

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