, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 941-954
Date: 18 Oct 2011

A Journey Toward Wholeness, a Journey to God: Physical Fitness as Embodied Spirituality

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Abstract

Physical fitness expressed through exercise can be, if done with the right intention, a form of spiritual discipline that reflects the relational love of humanity to God as well as an expression of a healthy love of the embodied self. Through an analysis of the physiological benefits of exercise science applied to the human body, this paper will demonstrate how such attention to the optimal physical fitness of the body, including weight and cardiovascular training and nutrition, is an affirmation of three foundational theological principles of human embodiment: as created in the “imago Dei”, as unified body/spirit, and as part of God’s creation calling for proper stewardship. In a contemporary climate where women’s bodies in particular are viewed through the lens of commodification—as visual objects for sale based on prescribed notions of superficial esthetics and beauty—as well as the consistently high rates of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and obesity, authors Greenwood and Delgado offer a vision of how women and men can imagine a subjective relationship with their own bodies that reflects the abundant love of God for God’s creation. Spoken from the lived experience of professional fitness competitor and trainer, as well as trained biokineticist, Dr. Greenwood presents the most current scientific data in the field of biokinetics that grounds the theological analysis offered by Dr. Delgado, whose personal journey through anorexia and scholarly emphasis on Christian theological anthropology inform this work. Taken together, Greenwood and Delgado suggest a response to God’s love for humanity, including our physical bodily humanity, which entails a responsibility to attend to the physical fitness of our bodies in order to live into the fullness, flourishing and love of God’s creation as God intended.