As a physical therapist, I know too well the benefits of exercise, especially exercise that is used to restore physical function, and one's ability to walk. I also know of the general health benefits of exercise such as controlling weight, endurance and mood, and its therapeutic effects on heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Today however, I am going to talk about exercise that is not only good for the body, but also good for the mind and soul.
No one can dispute the bodily benefits of exercise, and even the mood enhancing properties of exercise. All this is well-documented, but little is written about the spiritual aspect of exercise. How can I exercise and make it a spiritual experience? The more popular options out there include exercising to worship songs, or meditating on scripture passages relating to "strength" and "might" while exercising. All this is good, but I found that a really good way of making exercise a spiritual experience is to go on a nature walk.
I love nature walks. Nature walks are very spiritually uplifting to me because I use it as a time to be alone with God, and to thank Him for the many things which He has created for us to enjoy on earth. During a nature walk, one can enjoy all the joys of creation away from the hustle and bustle of life and come back feeling refreshed. It is like a mini-vacation, away from all cares and problems. It is good exercise for the body, and it clears your mind of your worldly cares, and leaves you feeling spiritually refreshed, from spending time close to God in His world.
Nature walks can take many forms, and depends on the geography of the area in which you live. I live in Florida, and we are blessed with many parks, nature preserves, and beaches. Some weeks I would go walking along the beach, and then sit and watch the waves, and read a good Christian book on the sand. I might even close my eyes a little, and enjoy the sounds of nature around me, such as the waves crashing on the shore, or sit and watch the sea gulls flying. I love to see the ships and sailboats on the sea, and I enjoy seeing people splashing around in the water. Sometimes Iwould go for a swim, and play among the waves and the ebb and flow of the water. I tell you, nothing is as invigorating as day at the beach, enjoying the waters which God has created.
Another favorite of mine is going for hikes in nature preserves. I love nature preserves over a formal park because in nature preserves you can really see nature as it is, versus a park that is landscaped. I have hiked around the everglades (large swampy area in Florida), and in many of our nature parks. In these parks you can see small wildlife such as birds, squirells, and iguanas. I have encountered so many iguanas here in Florida that I have gotten used to them. Some people have encountered alligators but I have not, but I am always on the look out for them - just in case.
Another "nature walk" which I enjoy is canoeing or kayaking along the waterways here in Florida. Canoeing/kayaking can be a real adventure, as these waterways can take you out to sea! In the waterways, you can sometimes see fish, and on the shore can see crabs during crab season. I tell you all this is good and refreshing being on the water, especially during the hot, humid months.
These "nature walks" are enjoyable and really help you to connect to your Creator, and at the same time provide your body with some much needed exercise. Now these are not the only ways in which one can enjoy nature, and one can get as creative as one wants to be. How about going to the grand Canyon? How about going to the North Pole? What about skiing? How about horseback riding? How about white water rafting? How about outdoor camping? As a general rule, the more non-commercialized the event, the greater the connection to our Creator. Going on commercialized trips, for the thrills may be fun, but if there is no connection to the Creator, then it is not a true "nature walk."
Let us take time away from our busy schedules and enjoy some of these nature walks. Jesus is saying to us today, "Come ye apart into a desert place, and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).