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All too many Americans are staging perpetual sit-ins! According to recent studies, more than half of all Americans get little or no exercise, and around 250,000 die each year because of it.
The problem starts early. Children in grades one through twelve should get at least 30 minutes of physical education each day, but only 36% do. That’s one reason 40% of children—starting at age five—are obese or have elevated cholesterol. And both of these conditions are risk factors for heart disease.
All this inactivity isn’t making us very happy, either. Each year, nearly 15 million Americans are diagnosed with depression. A major study revealed that the less active a person was, the more depressed they were likely to be.
On the flip side, regular exercise is a great mood-booster. The Bible says, “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep” (Proverbs 19:15). One of the meanings for the word “sleep” is “drooping in spirit,” “faint,” or “dull”—just what we feel when we don’t get exercise!
You probably knew that regular daily exercise means better health and good muscle tone. But did you know it also increases mental sharpness, concentration, and even self-esteem? One interesting study showed that a 10-minute brisk walk yielded one hour of increased energy, as well as reduced tension. On the other hand, a sugar snack resulted in fatigue and tension.
Sometime in the 1930s, a discouraged, miserable man dragged himself into the office of Dr. Harry Link, a famous doctor in New York City. The man explained that he had lost his job and that nobody loved him enough to care. “I just want to commit suicide to end my troubles,” he moaned.
After Dr. Link examined the man, he told him, “I’ll give you a program of manual work, and soon you will be feeling much better.”
The man sneered. “I don’t like manual work and I don’t want to work. I want to commit suicide.” The doctor did his best to persuade the man to accept a work program, but it was no use. In exasperation Dr. Link said, “All right then, commit suicide. But if you do, why not do something out of the ordinary and heroic? Why not get into the headlines when you die?”
The man liked the idea. “What do you suggest, Doctor?”
“Well, I have never heard of a man running himself to death. If you run around the block until you drop dead, every newspaper will have it on the front page.”
The man jumped up and raced out the door. At home, he wrote a farewell letter. Then he started running. He ran and ran, but he couldn’t drop dead. Finally, he stopped, exhausted. I’ll have to finish it tomorrow night, he decided. He went home and slept better than he had for a long time. The next night he ran again. But he couldn’t drop dead, and—you’ve guessed it—he never did drop dead from too much exercise. Instead, he literally ran himself back to health and strength!
We aren’t suggesting such a drastic program! But the good news is that when you get serious about exercise, you will not only have better physical health, but your mental health will also improve. Why not choose to make exercise—at least 30 minutes a day—a God-ordained priority in your life?
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