Disclaimer: While it seems self-evident to me, I still feel that this hould perhaps be said: the post relates to me and my experiences only. Neither do I intend to give health advice, nor to tell anyone else what to do with their bodies.
I’ve never been athletic. Always hated gym classes at school, prefer my books to active games, and often thought of myself as “smart, not physically strong” (and “smart, not pretty”, but that is another topic). Taking care of my health was never a priority as well; it seldom is for young people anyway.
Spiritually, taking care of my body wasn’t in question as well. Satanism, to which I adhered for a while, preached either over-indulgence (something that never appealed to me anyway), or a misanthropic, rebellious attitude, where any attempt to look good was seen as “conforming to society’s standards”, and any attempt to improve one’s health – as a fear of dying, that has no place in that worldview as well.
Then, the Greek Gods came along, bringing their culture of appreciating physical strength and beauty with them; moreover, it was the God, whose domain specifically included beauty, harmony, health, physical and mental, and athletic activities. I realized, that I simply cannot bear the title of His priestess, as long as I stay out of shape and neglect my heath and appearance all the time. Together with some other issues (like a doctor advising me to start exercising in order to relieve some of my anxiety and depression), a decision to change my lifestyle has been made.
Now, while exercising does bring health benefits, its direct results – being able to fit into smaller size clothes, or run some extra distance, or lift more weights – are, while nice, aren’t really life-changing. Some may even say, all these are hardly achievements anyway, at least when compared to more “serious” things, like taking care of a family, getting a university degree or advancing in one’s career. But the thing is, they are still achievements, and essentially, the body muscles aren’t the only thing trained by exercising.
See, I am of the opinion, as supported by my own experiences as well, that you wouldn’t be able to achieve bigger goals – or it would be exponentially harder for you – unless you’ve become used to achieving small ones. Willpower, self-discipline, ability to work through pain and inconvenience, self-confidence(!), ability to set the goals, even the ones that seem impossible at first, and attaining them – people aren’t inherently born with these qualities, they have to be developed during life, in one way or another.
The way that seems to be working for me well is exercising, for reason already mentioned above – I’ve never been athletic, and I’ve never though I could be. As such, while doing thing like learning a new programming language or getting a degree still requires hard work and self-discipline, it is something that I expect to be able to do from myself anyway (moreover, not doing it fast enough or “good” enough is seen as failure). Being able to run faster and longer, on the opposite, isn’t – and when it appears that I can indeed do that, then it means that at least one limitation I’ve accepted for myself was just a block in my head. This is the experience that I can apply to other things in my life, things I wanted to achieve, but though I wasn’t good enough for them anyway, so I was discouraged from even trying.
And all that is just one example of becoming stronger (not just physically) and getting to know myself better by doing things, that started as a devotional activity for my god, but turned out to bring more benefits for myself than I’ve ever expected. One example out of many, I can rely on whenever I have doubts about my spirituality. One example of many that shows, that yes, indeed I can trust the Power that guides me.