Intro: Christian exercise?

Don’t try this at home…or anyplace else. Ever. There is no such thing as Christian exercise. But some ancient Christians probably did do calisthenics.

“Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  1 Timothy: 4:8

PraXis is about urging Christians to practice healthy living in mind, body, and Holy Spirit. We do this through diet, fitness, and mindfulness in the Christian tradition of the spiritual athlete.

In the 1-hour PraXis sessions, we engage in 30–40 minutes of light exercise and then sit for 20 minutes of Christian mindfulness, otherwise known as contemplative prayer. In this post we go over the basic intent and theology of the exercise modality.  The PraXis exercise is intended to do three things:

  • Keep the body vital
  • Prepare for mindful prayer
  • Turn attention to God through embodied practice and silence


Most people are familiar with yoga, or asana yoga, a series of controlled stretches and poses. There is no real equivalent to asana yoga in the Christian tradition. However, calisthenics and gymnastics are ancient Western traditions of physical training that were certainly present in the Hellenized world of the earliest Christians. Really any kind of exercise appropriate to our age and fitness level will do. There is nothing wrong with purely physically focused tai chi, or yoga. However, we also look at modern calisthenics and modes like Pilates and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) as well.

Christians have a unique relationship with the body. In our tradition, you are not a spirit having a bodily experience. You are a body and spirit equally. Christians believe that when we die, we lose our bodies, temporarily, but we will be reunited with them someday, in a place outside time, when Heaven and Earth are reunited. So we must take care of our bodies, for as Paul says, they are not our own. Our bodies were won for us at great price, by Christ on the cross, so that they might become a fit dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (who dwells in your heart). So when we care for our bodies with exercise and fasting, we are performing a kind of prayer of thanksgiving to God.

We have to remember that for most of Christian history, people were not in need of physical fitness. In the days of the early Church, almost every task required physical exercise: farming, making bread, repairing even the simplest tool. Every part of existence was a workout. It was rare for people to make a living while sitting in a chair for eight hours a day. 

It was only as we came into the later part of the 20th century that we found ourselves in a crisis of physical and mental health in the United States and the West. This crisis has a lot to do with modern lives, where our bodies are too still and our minds are too active.

Healthy Body, Healthy Soul

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, adults are way too sedentary these days. Let’s face it, we do sit around way too much. Adults who do any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity gain health benefits that include prevention of chronic diseases, weight control, strength, improved sleep, stress relief, and increased life expectancy.  

Adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five days a week. Exercises that we will promote in PraXis fall into three types: mobility or stretching (that means you, yoga), strength training (body weight exercise), and cardio or HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training). 

Exercise depends on your individual condition, one size does not fit all. Your weight, age, and general health are the starting points. So be careful and remember to

  • go slowly at first
  • pay attention to your body
  • push yourself
  • rest

With anything in PraXis, there may be some discomfort as you begin to push yourself into doing something new, or physically or mentally strenuous. So as a martial arts instructor once told us, if it hurts, remember this Rule of Pain and Progress:

The first time you feel it, ignore it and keep going
The second time you feel it, pay attention to it, but keep going
The third time you feel it, stop and rest

See some examples of recommended exercises HERE.

Published by Cornelius Swart

Master in Public and Pastoral Leadership Fitness and Wellness Coach in Training 200 RYT Yoga Instructor (former journalist)

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