A concern for health and wellness runs deep in United Methodist DNA. In Organic Wesley: A Christian Perspective on Food, Farming, and Faith (Seedbed), William Guerrant explains that John Wesley believed that a healthy body was part of God's design for humanity. He points out that Wesley devoted considerable effort to bringing health and wellness to those who couldn't afford medical care by using the most powerful technology of his day, the printing press, to offer medical resources to those who couldn't pay for the services of a physician.
Cason Sicking continues that tradition as the director of recreation ministries at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston. He says, "It's about awareness. Armed with the right information, people can make simple changes to increase their health and wellness and achieve goals."
How is that accomplished? While it would be nice to be able to hire a personal trainer and dietician, that is out of the reach for most. Technology puts the information within reach.
Sicking recommends My Fitness Pal, the leading app in the health and fitness category. "From the moment I downloaded it, I said, 'This is unbelievable.' It makes everything so incredibly simple." Apps in this category help you count the calories in the food you eat by scanning barcodes on packaging and track the calories you burn during exercise by simply logging your activities.
Launch My Fitness Pal, and it takes your basic stats (age, height and weight) and then sets a calorie count based on whether you are needing to gain, lose or maintain your weight. However, what My Fitness Pal does best is ease the process of tracking the calories you take in through food and the ones you spend through exercise. If you get a carmel macchiato at Starbucks, you simply type in Starbucks macchiato. The calorie count comes up immediately and is added into the list. While My Fitness Pal automatically tracks your steps, it will go even further and automatically track your exercise if you have a fitness watch or band paired with your phone that measures your heart rate.
One of the easiest ways to make progress with exercise is to increase your overall number of steps in a day. Sicking says that many people don't realize that they likely already own a pedometer – their smartphone. Simply by launching the health app on an iPhone or downloading one of the many pedometer apps for Android, users can track their steps without having to buy anything else. Armed with that data, it is much easier to make strides towards a healthier lifestyle.
Crossing into the diet realm, Sicking notes, "We consume so much stuff that our bodies were never meant to consume." He encourages people to make healthier food choices overall because choosing quality food can have dramatic effects on both weight and overall health.
Again, smart phones can enable people to make good food choices. Apps like Good Guide help customers make food choices by providing simple ratings on health, environmental and social benefits. Getting even more practical, Farmstand helps users find the more than 9,000 farmer's markets around the United States.
Whether you download an app or start counting your steps, Sicking says, "It all comes back to engaging and being mindful of what you're doing. Once you engage that information and take ownership, it's easy to begin taking steps to increased health and wellness."
United Methodist theology does not separate the physical and the spiritual but leans into a deep connection between the two. That means that physical health and wellness are a spiritual issue as well. Caring for one's body is an important endeavor of faith, an endeavor made easier by some incredible technology.
The Rev. Jeremy Steele is Next Generation minister at Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama. He is also an author, blogger at jeremywords.com and a frequent contributor to MyCom, an e-newsletter published by United Methodist Communications.