‘Is Pilates Okay For Christians?’

Random musings on Google autofill

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Determined to begin my long delayed fitness overhaul, I dive into Google to find out whether Pilates might build some of the much-touted muscle mass I need to kick-start my metabolism into shedding those stubborn lockdown pounds I’m no longer on speaking terms with.

Half-way down my autofill list I see the question — Is Pilates Okay For Christians?

It got me thinking. Surely core strength is the right of every individual, regardless of faith or creed?

It also begs the question: what kinds of fitness regimes could be deemed un-Christian?

I racked my brain for what little I could remember from my Sunday School days. Perhaps Pilates leads to worldly thoughts? Makes you vain? Or covetous? If you got addicted to the exercise, would that make Pilates a false idol? Overall, does exercise encourage ungodliness?

I googled ‘Exercise NOT suitable for Christians’. The top result was ‘Should Christians Exercise and Work out — Ask Pastor Tim’. The answer was a 24-odd minute YouTube offering, which I didn’t want to sit through, but on reading the transcript, it seemed like the enquirer, who wrote ‘By the time I drive to a gym, work out, shower, change clothes, drive back, it is almost a two hour ordeal. I don’t want to spend that much time each day in something unless God affirms it as good, and not just neutral’, really didn’t want to expend time on exercise, but needed to ensure the validity of the biblical quotes they’d chosen to back their stance.

Tim and his fellowship circle explored the validity of exercising solely for its own sake, versus an activity with a productive outcome like, say, chopping wood, but in the end came to the conclusion that exercise of itself was okay, as long as it didn’t take priority over God and the time spent doing His work. Pilates doesn’t seem like it chews up too much of your day, with workouts still able to get results, but if it’s super addictive, that could be something to watch, I guess.

Below Pastor Tim, I found, What God says about exercise? which linked to a blog site listing biblical verses such as:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. – Romans 12:1

The blogger called herself ‘an average Jesus-Loving girl’ who’d been on her own weight-loss journey and enjoyed helping other women live all-round healthier lives.

She noted that while she doesn’t always love feeling the burn, making her exercise ‘an act of worship’ shifts her motivation to a more personal level that recognizes her power to “glorify God by moving my body”. That was the gist of all the quotes that follow: exercising is not just taking care of yourself, it’s about honoring God, by looking after your body in order to give Him your all.

At the bottom were links to other articles, such as Christian Weight-loss: A Living Sacrifice, Christian Exercise Music: Looking for Clean, Upbeat Faith-filled Songs? and The Best Christian Workouts. I honestly never knew this was a thing, but now feel a bit clearer on the mindset behind that Googler’s query. Exercising Christians want to do it in an environment that aligned with their values and ideals and didn’t distract from their larger spiritual goals.

So how Christian a form of exercise is Pilates?

Pilates is a series of about 500 (500!) exercises inspired by calisthenics, yoga and ballet. It lengthens and stretches all major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion. It improves flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness. To gain the maximum benefit, you should do Pilates at least two or three times per week. You may notice postural improvements after 10 to 20 sessions.

Sounds good so far.

It requires the exerciser to focus as they move their body through prescribed movements, with their own placement, rhythm and breathing pattern. Sequences are performed usually five to ten times, over a session of 45 to 90 minutes. Mat work and specialized equipment for resistance are used.

Focus, discipline and persistence. Positive, wholesome traits. That lead to reasonably rapid results.

Its advantages apparently include improved flexibility, muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks, (too worldly a focus for some, perhaps?), balanced muscle strength and control and improved posture and spinal stabilization. It can also improve physical co-ordination and balance, relax your neck shoulders and back and prevent musculoskeletal injuries. It increases lung capacity and circulation and improve concentration and awareness while also managing stress.

What’s not to like? Christians, like the rest of us, might enjoy the benefits listed above, if those are the kinds of results they are looking for.

The usual caution to seek medical advice before starting a new exercise program if you’ve recently had surgery, are pregnant, over 40, suffer from any pre-existing medical conditions, or are out of shape was advised.

Nowhere does it mention Judeo-Christian beliefs as a contraindicator.

All-in-all, I was pleased to learn, Pilates appears to offer many benefits for people with a wide range of fitness levels and health requirements, regardless of their religious beliefs, but I’m still a bit baffled as to what constitutes a more or less-holy form of exercise.

Of course, as with everything in life, it’s the attitudes and behavior you bring to your activities that define their moral value, but then, others definitions may vary, too. I’d say that there are lots of benefits to be gained from practicing Pilates, but it’s up to the individual to give it a go and see how it aligns with their personal lifestyle and beliefs.

And hey, after all my soul-searching perhaps that search was just a mix-up and someone was just trying to find out whose side Pontius Pilate had been on?

For now, I think I’m on the right track with Pilates, but the ‘Christian exercise’ rabbit-hole has been an interesting one, and no-doubt something I’ll be reminded of next time I’m looking for something new to switch up my hopefully well-established fitness routine.

Until then, I can do all things through Pilates, which strengthens me.

Yes, I went there.

More from Gilda: Postcards from the Bottom of the World

Finding my groove. Spreading my wings. Being inspired.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store