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How the clergy can look after their temples

by
13 October 2010

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From the Revd Dr John Searle

Sir, — The Bishop of Wakefield’s response (17 September) to Dr Huw Morgan’s letter (10 September) about the importance of regular medical check-ups for the clergy is to be welcomed. It is, however, also important that the clergy take responsibility for their own health and well-being.

The clergy, too, are caught up in the present epidemic of sedentary disease which is sweeping the Western world. Genetically, human health is predicated on movement and activity. The rising tide of obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, dementia, and depression is because most of us are inactive. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that this is also a factor in certain types of cancer. The risk of all these diseases can be significantly reduced by exercise.

The question is how much exercise. The Chief Medical Officer for England and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Moderate-intensity exercise is sufficient to make us out of breath but able to continue to talk in complete sentences. This is achieved by brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and many sports. The greater the intensity of the exercise, the greater the benefit. So it is good to work up to a level of breathlessness where it is difficult to complete a sentence.

It is also important to do some strength training and flexibility exercises two or three times a week, particularly as our muscle strength declines as we get older, leading to falls with loss of balance and co-ordination. Regular exercise at these levels increases energy levels and work efficiency.

I was a doctor for 30 years before I was ordained to work as a self-supporting minister. I am a qualified personal trainer, and have seen over and over again the huge benefits that regular exercise has brought to people, some of whom are ministers. And maybe there is a theological imperative here also. If our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, ought we not to look after them?

JOHN SEARLE
Belle Isle Lodge
Belle Isle Drive
Exeter EX2 4RY

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