Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Getting In Shape to Go On An LDS Mission

I discussed the higher physical standard for going a mission in an earlier post. I have decided to share with you what the LDS leaders have said about how LDS prospective missionaries should get in shape. What they say on the subject might offer some ideas on how to get ready physically and serve a mission. I will try to find material dealing with missionaries but there are some general statements on exercise that are applicable to all Latter-day Saints including prospective missionaries.

Thomas S. Monson said: "Nutritious meals, regular exercise, and appropriate sleep are necessary for a strong body, just as consistent scripture study and prayer strengthen the mind and spirit” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 60; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 46).

In 2007 in the New Era Special Missionary Issue, M. Russell Ballard counseled: "
Missionaries need to be self-reliant. Young people ought to learn to take care of themselves and not be so dependent on their mother or father.

They need to be able to handle the physical demands of missionary work. Young people should keep their weight under control and be physically fit. The missionary daily schedule has built into it a 30-minute-a-day exercise program. Being physically tuned up enhances mental capacity."

The Religion 130 Missionary Preparation Manual says: "An understanding of the rigorous nature of missionary service and proper physical and emotional preparation will enhance a prospective missionary’s ability to adjust to a new lifestyle and succeed in the work of the

Lord. . . .

Missionary work is rigorous and demanding. Prospective missionaries are expected to qualify for service in the mission field. This involves not only their level of worthiness but also their physical, mental, and emotional preparation. If a missionary is struggling with physical or mental health, he or she will be at a disadvantage in this aspect of building the kingdom of God. Mental and emotional health is also critical to the success of a missionary in serving the Lord with “all your heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2). Developing good habits of eating, exercising, sleep, and personal hygiene before the mission call will enhance the likelihood of successfully adapting to the environment of missionary service. (Religion 130 Missionary Preparation Student Manual, Salt Lake City, UT.: Intellectual Reserve, 2005, p. 90).

The 130 Missionary Manual also says: "Missionaries should not begin their mission with bad habits that have the potential to grow into serious problems. Every person can change and improve. Prospective missionaries who have developed poor diet, hygiene, and physical activity habits can begin now to change their behavior. Self-discipline can be learned at any age, but the process is not always easy. If you master the task before entering missionary service, you will save yourself from much grief and frustration." (Religion 130 Missionary Preparation Student Manual, Salt Lake City, UT.: Intellectual Reserve, 2005, pp. 90-91).

Finally, the 130 manual offers: "

All young men and women should participate in regular exercise. Three basic requirements of a physical activity program, regardless of a person’s age or ability, are exercises for flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance (aerobic or oxygen-using exercise).

  • These exercises stretch muscles, tendons, and ligaments and should be done daily.
  • Strength—Each major muscle group should be exercised.
  • 3. Cardiovascular endurance—These exercises strengthen the heart, increase overall fitness, and improve mood. Walking and bicycling are good activities to prepare for missionary service.
(Religion 130 Missionary Preparation Student Manual, Salt Lake City, UT.: Intellectual Reserve, 2005, pp. 91-92).

Russell M. Nelson a former doctor when asked about his opinion on exercise and jogging suggests:
"Proper physical conditioning is facilitated by regular exercise, but it should be suited to the abilities and preferences of the individual. For Elder Joseph Anderson, now in his ninety-sixth year, it is swimming. For Elder Neal A. Maxwell, it is tennis. Others enjoy jogging.

Like many other good things, exercise has benefits when applied wisely and in moderation. But I offer a word of caution regarding excess. It is folly to assume that if a little of anything is good, a lot is therefore better. We should be mindful of Paul’s counsel, “Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Jogging seems to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel of the latter-day explosion of knowledge throughout the world, “[At] the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). (Russell M. Nelson, “Twenty Questions,” Address to CES Religious Educators , Temple Square Assembly Hall, 13 September 1985).

He also said: "Appropriate physical activity helps to combat depression." (Russell M. Nelson, Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 8; or Ensign, [November 1988]: 8).

For those who have a hard time losing weight you might consider reading Garth Fisher's article in the Ensign entitled "The Weight-Loss Battle:Helping Your Body Win." I actually used this diet when a student at BYU and lost a lot of pounds by baking whole wheat bread with honey rather than sugar. In 2004 Larry A. Tucker also of the BYU fitness department shared some ideas on "Move More, Stress Less. In 1981 S. Scott Zimmerman had some interesting ideas on losing some weight in a provocative Ensign article "Running Away from It All." Clarence F. Robison's 1972 article "Keeping Physically Fit" is still pertinent today.

Marvin K. Gardner says at the MTC "five days a week, missionaries go to the gym for fifty minutes of exercise and their choice of activities such as basketball or volleyball, jogging, jumping rope, or lifting weights. They’re also encouraged to work out every day during their missions, using a tape-recorded copy of the exercises." So it is important to be in shape before you get there.

In the Young Women's Manual 2 it says:

"Regular exercise provides many benefits to our bodies. Following is a summary of how exercise affects the body systems:
  • Exercise strengthens the muscles. Stronger muscles provide better support for the skeletal system. Strong, firm muscles hold the bones of the body in their proper position, decreasing the stress and damage that can result from bad posture. Back pain and stiffness may be largely due to inactivity. Furthermore, with proper posture of the spine, the head, arms, and legs can move more easily. Proper exercise keeps the entire body limber. Muscles and joints that are seldom used tend to be stiff and inflexible. Adequate activity also helps maintain bone strength. Starting at about age twenty, the bones begin to weaken. Regular exercise can help stop this decline and prevent the brittleness and fragility of bones that often accompanies old age.

  • Exercise affects the metabolism. Exercise strengthens our bodies and helps them function more efficiently. Exercise uses up calories, usually without causing an increase in appetite. Many people who exercise find that they eat less than those who do not. Exercise and moderation of eating habits can work well together to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Exercise improves the nerves. Vigorous exercise improves overall coordination. It also releases nervous tension and stimulates and clears the mind. Many people use a period of daily exercise to plan the day, to gain a fresh perspective on life, or simply to relax. Physical exercise tires the muscles and releases tension and so helps most people sleep better."

( “Lesson 38: Physical Health,” Young Women Manual 2, 146.)

Joe J. Christensen formerly of the Seventy thought we should "Choose some sport or other vigorous physical exercise that is consistent with your situation and physical condition and be regular in pursuing it. Get the blood circulating and give your major muscles a workout. An appropriate amount of time and effort spent in exercising will help you to be more effective in all other areas of your life.

“I don’t know what your choice will be. Personally, I prefer racquetball or walking to jogging. . . . Of course, you need to make your own choice but resolve to do something physical regularly. . . .

“Some of you are not getting the rest that you need. Some are habituated to going to bed late and sleeping much longer than your system really needs and thus missing out on some of the personal inspiration you could be receiving.

“Adequately rested, there is great value that can come to you as an early riser. Years ago, Barbara and I were asked to drive President and Sister Marion G. Romney from Provo to their home in Salt Lake City. Along the way, President Romney shared some of his personal experiences when he was first called to serve as a General Authority way back in 1941. He had been serving as a stake president at the time and had gone to General Conference where he was called, without prior knowledge, to be a General Authority. He was shocked and very nervous. He felt that he needed some advice, and so he went to Elder Harold B. Lee, a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve and former associate as a stake president. He asked him for advice about how to be successful as a general authority.

“Elder Lee said:

“‘If you are to be successful as a General Authority, I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested and then in the quiet of those early morning hours, you will receive more flashes of inspiration and insight than at any other time of the day.’

“President Romney said,

“‘From that day on, I put that counsel into practice, and I know it works. Whenever I have a serious problem, or some assignment of a creative nature with which I hope to receive the influence of the Spirit, I always receive more assistance in the early morning hours than at any other time of the day. Following that counsel has helped me a great deal through the years.’ (See: Joe J. Christensen, To Grow in Spirit [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], pp. 27–28).

“You can have a similar experience in your own life. You can change, even if you consider yourself a ‘night person.’ Set the habit in 21 days. When it comes right down to it, it is a matter of strong resolve and ‘mind over mattress.’” (Resolutions [CES fireside for college-age young adults, Jan. 9, 1994], 5).

M. Russell Ballard cautioned that "Many people . . . have difficulty finding the time for sufficient rest, exercise, and relaxation. We must schedule time on our daily calendars for these activities if we are to enjoy a healthy and balanced life. Good physical appearance enhances our dignity and self-respect." (Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 17; or Ensign, [May 1987]: 15).

Whatever your condition in life get up off the couch and get moving. Do something which burns a few calories--skateboard, walk, run, swim, trampoline, roller skate, bike etc. Consistent exercise for thirty minutes a day at least five days of the week should get you in shape for a mission. Before launching in to any program make sure to consult with your parents, physician, and other health care professionals. Good luck in getting ready for a mission.

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