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Fitness For Body And Soul

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Open the Sunday worship bulletin and alongside the prayers, scripture readings and hymns you'll find an invitation to get a flu shot, get your glucose checked, have your blood pressure checked along with an invitation to join members for 5Ks and marathons, Christian yoga and Karate for Christ.

Many churches and some synagogues now include gyms, swimming pools and other fitness venues on their campuses, and an entire industry of religiously oriented fitness equipment suppliers, programming and teacher training has grown up to serve them.

The Christian diet craze of the late 1980s marked a trend toward the belief that “fit for the kingdom” included body as well as soul. The movement has expanded, as other religions have embraced faith-based fitness programs.

Moreover, with obesity rates increasing and Americans growing more sedentary — and creating health-care problems and costs — the need to adopt more healthful lifestyles is obvious.

A 2007 survey of more than 6,000 American congregations, conducted by the National Council of Churches USA with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, revealed that 70 percent of churches provide health-care services to their communities.

Whether at home, the gym or at church, finding a program that works for you and sticking with it can pay big dividends. Regular exercise can prevent or delay diabetes and heart trouble.

It can also reduce arthritis pain, anxiety and depression. It can help older people stay independent.

There are four main types of exercise and seniors need some of each:

• Endurance activities - like walking, swimming, or riding a bike - which build "staying power" and improve the health of the heart and circulatory system

• Strengthening exercises which build muscle tissue and reduce age-related muscle loss

• Stretching exercises to keep the body limber and flexible

• Balance exercises to reduce the chances of a fall

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