As You Get Older, Keep Moving
“This is the most important letter I have ever written to you—and it is to go to all members of God’s Church, worldwide!”
This is the urgency with which Herbert W. Armstrong began his March 2, 1967, co-worker letter. In this letter, Mr. Armstrong informed the Church of his wife’s dire health trial, the illness that would take her life just over a month later. But even during this sore trial, Mr. Armstrong had a remarkable attitude.
“We have humbled ourselves before [God],” he wrote, “we have confessed our shortcomings and our sins—we have repented!” He continued:
I have changed my entire daily routine—my entire life. The fasting and prayer has resulted in almost completely removing all signs of the heart condition or high blood pressure. For four years I have had to live knowing I could drop dead at any second! Now pounds have been taken off. Now I can take longer, more vigorous walks. Now I am taking them, three times a day—regardless of circumstances which might try to prevent! … My life from now will be far more active—and that new routine is already in effect and becoming well established.
This trial became a turnaround in Mr. Armstrong’s physical health. Now, no matter how busy he was, he determined to let nothing get in the way of a strict regimen of vigorous walking three times a day.
Mr. Armstrong was a busy man, probably much busier than most of us, but he made time for it. Physical activity is important! Don’t just feel guilty for how many times you’ve made excuses for not moving, use this as a jolt to be active!
Mr. Armstrong went on to say:
Brethren, there has to be an about-face! I am not ashamed to lead off in this. I am not ashamed to set you the example! I am happy and rejoicing in God’s chastening He has given me, and doing my utmost to respond to it. Will you do the same?
This blistering 1967 letter is a challenge for us all to follow Mr. Armstrong’s example and improve our physical health through exercise. And walking, especially as we advance in years, is one of the best forms of exercise.
As you advance in years, it’s not as easy to hit the gym, or workout with weights. It can be dangerous even, to jump right into it if you have been away from it for a time. But walking is something that you can start today.
The health benefits of walking are almost endless. One study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Health Research Leicester, found a link between walking pace and life expectancy. Unsurprisingly, those with a faster walking pace had a longer life expectancy, but what’s surprising is that this remained true regardless of body weight. In fact, slower walkers that were also underweight had the shortest life expectancy of all.
A lead author of the study, Prof. Tom Yates of the University of Leicester, said that “the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (bmi), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives.”
Mr. Armstrong was living proof of the benefits of brisk walking. If you watch footage of Mr. Armstrong in his early years, you see a young man bounding up to the podium, filled with energy. This is a man who lived to 93 years old!
Citing a physiotherapist, the Telegraph in April recommended walking for 30 to 40 minutes, three to four times per week. Intensity, the article pointed out, is also vital. “The faster you walk, the more calories you burn and the harder your muscles will work,” it stated.
But remember, slow walking is better than no walking at all. We all have to start somewhere. Even Mr. Armstrong had his ups and downs. At the time of his decision to start walking three times a day, he was a little heavier than he wanted to be. He even said in that 1967 letter that “even a two- or three-block walk brought pains” in his lungs, associated with his heart problems. He had to start slowly at the beginning and then, as he got stronger, as he shed a few pounds, he began walking faster and more vigorously. Like Mr. Armstrong, make a start and then focus on constantly improving. Aim to walk further while slowly quickening your pace over time.
The Times also reported in April that a 20 to 30 minute stroll through nature is one of the best “stress-busting treatments that a doctor can prescribe.” Spending time in a place where you feel connected to God’s creation—which helps you to see God (Romans 1:20)—was shown to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, by about 10 percent. Just 20 minutes and you will find many benefits physically and mentally.
In a January 1982 Plain Truth article, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The Almighty God made the human body so that—even though composed of material substance from the ground—its normal condition is one of robust, invigorating, radiant good health!” This is the normal condition, the way that God designed our bodies to function. But in this modern age where food has been so depleted of its nutrients, in this age of thick air pollution and sedentary lifestyles, we can’t give up. A lot will change in the World Tomorrow, but until then, we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to combat the negative pulls.
God gives us both His physical and spiritual laws because He loves us and wants us to lead thrilling radiant lives. “God’s laws were set in motion to give us happiness, peace, security in plenty, and thrilling radiant joys,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension in Sex. “God’s laws are the gift of His love to us. God wants us to enjoy the blessings they make possible. This is the plain and rational truth! Why has a rebellious mankind insisted on being willingly ignorant of that basic fact of life?” Look at the way people are living today. There is a lot of heartache and tragedy because of broken spiritual laws, and broken physical laws. The lifestyle so many lead is not the quality of life God intended us to have.
In the September-October 1982 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Consider, now, what your life ought to be. It should be healthy, based on a right diet, sufficient sleep and normal but not excessive exercise. You should be vigorously, dynamically alive, physically and mentally, awake to the real purpose of human life.”
Mr. Armstrong wrote that when he was 90 years old. This is a man who knew what he was talking about! He lived a vigorous, long healthy life! He was “dynamically alive,” accomplishing more the older he got. He produced Mystery of the Ages, his greatest work, in the last year of his life.
How did he manage to live such a long, “dynamically alive” life? He lived God’s laws of radiant physical health, which includes exercise, and he emphasized it over and again.
In 1928, in an article titled “Ten Simple Rules that Lead to Health,” he wrote that few people older than 25 get enough exercise. Compare that to today. What would he say now, more than 90 years later?
People today are experiencing more health trials, more sickness, more disease and more injuries at a younger age than ever before. Why? Because we are degenerating as a society, spiritually and physically. If we are going to resist it, we’ve got to do our part. We’ve got to do what Mr. Armstrong challenged us to do in 1967. Sometimes, we just have to make an about-face.
He went on to write, “Walking in the fresh air every day is good. For those who lead an indoor life, such sports as golf or tennis are splendid. Often bedroom exercises are advisable. … Each individual must determine for himself what additional exercise, if any, he needs, as differing daily occupations naturally affect this.”
Writing about the Ambassador College fitness program, Mr. Armstrong said in 1965 that it “is just as necessary as any other part of college work.” Think about that statement! Mr. Armstrong said that the college’s physical fitness program was just as important as any other part of the college work!
And Mr. Armstrong set the example. “How do you suppose I have been able to carry on this energetic, exhausting grind these past 38 years??” he asked. “I have to watch my health, my diet—and keep physically fit.” Look at the fruits of his 93 years of life and you see that he lived the way of life that he was talking about. Because of this, God was able to use him much more powerfully. He had momentary setbacks here and there, as we all do, but overall he maintained a very physically active lifestyle.
Just look at the example of his prayer rock. He went there often to receive much spiritual strength, but as he noted in his autobiography, he came upon that rock when he was running over the hilltop for exercise. He was outside in God’s creation receiving physical strength and found a private place to pray and receive vital spiritual strength! This rock is a symbol of the infinitesimal beginning of this end-time work, which God built through a man who did everything he could spiritually and physically to submit to God.
It is important to remember, however, that Mr. Armstrong always emphasized moderate physical exercise. In the February Youth 81 magazine, referring to 1 Timothy 4:8. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Our physical bodies do need some exercise, but not the overabundance many athletes give them.”
He went on to write, “God raised me up to be His apostle, and to teach you His truths and give you wisdom. … And I’m still running strong in what God called me to do—and doing more work now than when I was 28 or 38!” Now this is what we are aiming for. We want to get up into our 60s, 70s, and 80s and keep producing. We want to do even more work than we did when we were younger! Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men is their strength,” so of course the body slows down and loses some of its strength with age, but you can reverse a lot of that just by putting in a little time and effort daily.
As with everything, there is balance. It is possible to get too into physical exercise—and leave out the other things we need to live a balanced, godly lifestyle.
“God sent me to be an example for you who are growing into mature manhood and womanhood,” wrote Mr. Armstrong. “Sure, I’ve had bodily exercise—a little! But not the over-amount of a professional athlete.” He exercised a little, and a lot of what he did was vigorous walking outdoors.
He also spoke from time to time about the dangers of getting too involved in sports. “If Jesus were to be on Earth today, as He was more than 1,950 years ago, you may be sure he would not go into pro sports” (ibid).
Talking about the physical body, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy [Spirit] which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
We have been bought with a heavy price. God sent His Son to be sacrificed for us, to pay the penalty we have incurred for our sins. When we accept that sacrifice, we are no longer our own. We covenant—promise—to submit our whole life to God, which includes the physical. We are given the responsibility of glorifying God in our body. If we are going to be a valuable resource for God and for His work, we have to do our part and take care of this fleshly temple we have been given.
It is a challenge. It gets difficult. As you get older it can become harder and harder. It is something that we all need to be reminded of.
Think about Mr. Armstrong’s 1967 challenge. This sore trial that he went through really shook him up. It shocked him into making changes that he continued for the rest of his life.
Don’t wait for a sore trial like this to shake you up enough to make these changes. Look to Mr. Armstrong’s example and accept his challenge. Make an “about-face” and start your habit of vigorous walking today!