Feed Your Brain

Bodily Movement

Heritage Men’s Retreat | Greenville


  • Movement and Life
  • Why Movement Is Important for Christians

“We all know that exercise makes us feel better, but most of us have no idea why. We assume it’s because we’re burning off stress or reducing muscle tension or boosting endorphins, and we leave it at that. But the real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best, and in my view, this benefit of physical activity is far more important — and fascinating — than what it does for the body. Building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are essentially side effects. I often tell my patients that the point of exercise is to build and condition the brain” (John Ratey, Spark, 3).

“To keep our brains at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard” (4).

“The brain responds like muscles do, growing with use, withering with inactivity” (5).

“How exercise improves learning on three levels: first, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus” (53).

Focus of this session: bodily movement (even training) for spiritual joy.

1. Movement and Life

Genesis 1:21, 28

God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves . . . “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 7:21 (the flood)

All flesh died that moved on the earth.

Genesis 8:19 (after the flood)

Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.

Genesis 9:3

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

Leviticus 11:46

This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground . . .

Ecclesiastes 4:15

I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place.

Psalm 50:11

I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.

Psalm 69:34

Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.

Acts 17:28

In him we live and move and have our being.

But note:

Hebrews 1:3

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

2. Why Movement Is Important for Christians

(bodily exertion, even training, serving spiritual purposes)

Move to Image God

Genesis 1:27

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Romans 12:1–2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 Corinthians 6:13, 19–20

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.

Philippians 1:20–26

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again

Jesus walked.

Move to Jumpstart Joy

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, not only said, “Eating alone will not keep a man well; he also must take exercise,” but he also treated depression with a long walk. And if that didn’t seem to help, he advised taking another. “Walking is the best medicine.”

Put natural joy (and alertness and attention) to use to serve spiritual joy.

“Going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. It’s a handy metaphor to get the point across, but the deeper explanation is that exercise balances neurotransmitters—along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain. And as you’ll see, keeping your brain in balance can change your life” (Ratey, Spark, 38).

“BDNF gathers in reserve pools near the synapses and is unleashed when we get our blood pumping. In the process, a number of hormones from the body are called into action to help. . . . During exercise, these factors push through the blood-brain barrier, a web of capillaries with tightly packed cells that screen out bulky intruders such as bacteria. Scientists have just recently learned that once inside the brain, these factors work with BDNF to crank up the molecular machinery of learning. They are also produced within the brain and promote stem-cell division, especially during exercise” (51–52).

“The body was designed [!] to be pushed, and in pushing our bodies we push our brains too” (53).

Move to Do Others Good

Fit for what?

2 Timothy 2:21

If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Titus 3:1

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people

How do bodies glorify God?

Matthew 5:16

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Move the needle.

  • consider default mindset about movement
  • walking and “chores” count
  • small steps over the long haul
  • modest upkeep
  • persist

“Exercise is an acquired pleasure. The joys of an activity reveal themselves slowly as the body and brain adapt” (Kelly McGonigal, Joy of Movement, 43).

1 Timothy 4:7–8

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.