Reynolds combines faith and fitness and the Annandale, Va., church. His concept — and book on the topic: "Bod4God" — is based on the idea that physical health and religious faith are not only compatible, but part of God’s plan.
"If you believe God made you, and believe what the Bible tells you, why wouldn't He tell you to manage and take care of your body?" Reynolds tells Newsmax Health. "It makes sense."
The "anti-fat pastor," as he's known to the faithful, practices what he preaches. Since starting the program in 2007, he's lost 120 pounds. He also estimates Capital Baptist's 1,000 or so parishioners have collectively lost an incredible six tons of weight — 12,000 pounds — by eating better and working out at the church gym.
"We know that gluttony is wrong, so taking good care of your body is doing what God wants you to do," he said. "God loved me at 340 pounds with high cholesterol and diabetes, of course. But when I lost all the weight, I felt like it was what He wanted me to do."
Reynolds' Church is part of a growing trend, with faith-based fitness programs becoming something of a national health craze in recent years, experts say.
In Minneapolis, an outfit called Yogadevotion offers faith-based yoga classes that combine traditional poses and scripture.The Rabbinical Assembly, an organization of Conservative rabbis, launched The Shalem Campaign program in 2010 to encourage its Jewish members to “adopt healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle habits.”
's everything from “Zumba for Christ” classes at Thompson Station Church in Tennessee to "Gospel Aerobics" at the Spiritual Weight-Loss Ministry in Tyler, Texas, to "Karate for Christ" based in Norfolk, Va.
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In addition, shelves of new books have been released on the topic — including some bestsellers: Nancy Roth's "An Invitation to Christian Yoga," Scott Gerson's "Ayurvedic Guide to Diet & Weight Loss," and Kenneth Cooper’s "Faith-Based Fitness. "
Many faith-based groups took action after an alarming study from Northwestern University found that young adults who frequently attend religious activities are far more likely to become obese than those who don’t.
"It's logical to me that these programs work," said Pastor Reynolds. "It's all about maximizing your life and maximizing your body, living the life God designed you to live and experiencing the wholeness of life."
If you'd like to try mixing exercise and spirituality, here are four strategies to make fitness part of your faith from Laura Monica of WholyFit, a nationwide organization, and Laurrette Willis, the founder of PraiseMoves, a Tahlequah, Okla.-based Christian yoa group.
Mix prayer and movement: When jogging, brisk walking, or lifting weights, add mediation or silent prayer. Many people find that exercising is conducive to spiritual contemplation.
Add scripture, meditation to workouts: Listen to tapes of spiritual readings, prayers, guided meditations, or even sacred music while exercising.
Pray about your fitness goals: "God cares about the details," Monica said. "Trust God to help you exercise regularly just like you trust Him for other breakthroughs."
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