We hear all the time that we need to exercise but did you know exercise actually improves memory and slows down aging? A study done by University of Birmingham showed that people who exercised regularly did not lose muscle mass and maintained muscle strength. The study also revealed that cholesterol levels and body fat did not increase with age and men’s testosterone levels remained high suggesting exercise may avoid male menopause. The study also found that the immune system of people who exercise regularly did not age. So exercise is a great anti-aging tool for the body and the brain. Exercise has also been shown to lessens symptoms of depression, Bipolar, anxiety and Attention Deficit Disorder.  Exercise does this by increasing blood flow to the brain and releasing neurotransmitters that improve mood. One such neurotransmitter is BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) a protein that stimulates new brain cell growth. Exercise also stimulates the pre-frontal cortex of the brain which is important in focusing, staying on task, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. Research has also found that exercise delays atrophy or shrinking of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is important in the storing of long and short-term memory. Many studies have shown that exercise reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia. Studies have also found that as our weight goes up our brain atrophies or gets smaller increasing our risk of dementia. Another benefit of exercise is stress reduction. Stress negatively affects our body and, over time, suppresses our immune system. Greater than 87% of our current illnesses are stress related. This takes me back to our verse in Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:22  A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.

I don’t have to tell you that exercise is good for our heart but now I hope you see that exercise also helps the brain and the immune system. The bones, or more specifically the bone marrow, is important in forming our immune system but so is the thymus gland. The thymus is where T-cells mature and they are important in cell-mediated immunity. The University of Birmingham showed that the thymus in people who exercise regularly did not shrink with age further promoting the evidence that exercise improves our immune system.

Another important part of our body that needs to exercise is our spirit. As a born again believer, You and I have been given what the Bible calls the “fruit of the spirit”.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].

I have heard many pastors describe faith as a muscle we must exercise. Much like our muscles that become bigger with exercise, our faith gets bigger as we “exercise the muscle of faith” by trusting the promises of our Heavenly Father. There are nine fruits of the spirit beginning with love and ending in self-control. The Bible tells us to “put on love” implying that love is a choice. We choose to love others and ourselves. Choosing to love yourself by caring for you body is a choice and it requires self-control.  As believers, you and I have been given the spirit of love and self-control but we must exercise or practice these gifts to make them strong. Loving ourselves is the most important thing we can learn to do because if we don’t love ourselves then we will have a hard time loving others.

Take that step today to love yourself. You are worth it!

God says you have been fearfully and wonderfully made. You have been created for a purpose, one of which is to love and be loved by Him. He loves you dearly. It’s your choice. Choose the abundant life!

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