Living life to the fullest

Three Mennonite young men muse about fitness and faith.






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Publication: Canadian Mennonite
Author: Epp, Aaron
Date published: January 9, 2012

For Scott Feick, fitness is not just a matter of physical health; it is a matter of mental and spiritual health as well.

"I do believe it's important to be healthy physically, because that does affect how your mind works," the 21 -year-old says. "If you're not healthy, . . . your mind is focused on that, so you're not really focused on how you're doing emotionally or your relationship with God. So I believe it kind of pulls away from the other aspects of your life."

Originally from Saskatoon, where he attends Nutana Park Mennonite Church, Feick is an avid soccer player who hopes to become a personal trainer after he finishes his bachelor's degree in biblical and theological studies at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), Winnipeg.

Feick wants to open his own gym where he can work with clients not just on their physical health, but in a space where he can address their emotional and spiritual concerns as well. "You're not really healthy unless you feel healthy in all those areas as well," he says.

Like Feick, Brad Gerbrandt finds it easy to connect his passion for fitness with his Christian faith. The 33-year-old earned a master's degree in exercise science from the University of Manitoba after earning a bachelor's degree at CMU In January 2010, he and a friend opened Prairie CrossFit, their own gym in Winnipeg.

Gerbrandt points to I Corinthians 6:1920: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have receivedfrom God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies."

"Is it really appropriate to let our bodies slip to the point of obesity and joint disease and injury?" Gerbrandt wonders. "Is that [acknowledging] that our body is a temple?"

Jeff Klassen attends Home Street Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, and is currently studying kinesiology at the University of Manitoba. In his experience, physical fitness and nutrition are not talked about in church, but he is not sure whether or not they should be. He points to fellowship hockey leagues, baseball teams, youth volleyball tournaments and activities at church picnics as examples of ways that churches promote healthy living.

In Klassen's experience, most Mennonites are active. "The demographic of people that generally are Mennonite are on the higher percentile of income and generally are middle class," the 22-year-old says. "So we have the means to put our kids in sports and stay active."

For Klassen, obesity rates in Canada and the rise of Type 2 diabetes are two reasons why it is important for him to pursue a degree that teaches him about physical fitness. "We need people to help educate our society about good health, to get people active and educate them on how they can approach fitness and maintain their wellbeing," he says.

Klassen says that if people are looking to improve their physical fitness, they can start by looking at what they eat and adjusting it so that it follows the food guide released by Health Canada. People should also try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day, he says.

The new year is a time when many people make resolutions, and a lot of times they are related to health and fitness. That may be a good thing, given obesity rates in North America today. "Obesity in Canada," a report released this past June by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, found that between 1981 and 2009 obesity rates doubled among both males and females in most age groups. Today, approximately one in four Canadian adults is obese.

Gerbrandt adds that doing physical activities with a friend can help people stay motivated. "Find a partner to go for a run with, or go for a walk if that's the level you're at," he says. "If you've been active your whole life, maybe do something more intense: find a gym that is uplifting and stimulating and in line with your goals and your lifestyle."

"If we are sedentary and stuck in front of a TV or a computer all our life, we're really not enjoying God's creation," he muses. "I feel God wants us to live life to the fullest."

Author affiliation:

STORY AND PHOTOS BY AARON EPP

Special to Young Voices

WINNIPEG

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