The Saturday (evening) Post on Getting in Shape


With spring comes a shaking off of winter and yet another chance to resolve anew for a better way, a more balanced life, a healthier approach and so forth. We don’t need more to do, rather we crave order. We want grace-filled rhythms of life and work.

I’ve been playing around with just such a solution and I’m calling it S.E.E.D.S. Surprised? SEEDS is an approach of sowing health into life, specifically our physical body. What if we thought of our body like a plot of land, a seedbed, a garden? After all, we were fashioned from the dust of the ground.

S.E.E.D.S. is comprised of five basic elements practiced daily in concert over time.

S = Sunshine

E = Encouragement

E = Exercise

D = Diet

S = Sleep

Few realize that one of John Wesley’s most popular books was on health. In fact, it was one of the most popular books in 18th century England. He titled the book, Primitive Physick. Additionally, his correspondence and works are laced his with counsel on taking care of one’s physical body. Here are just a few examples:

Exercise, especially as the spring comes on, will be of greater service to your health than an hundred medicines. (Letter to Lady Maxwell, February 23, 1767)

Not that any one particular kind of exercise is necessary for all persons. Indeed Dr. Cheyne supposes the natural exercise of walking, where the strength suffices, to be preferable to any other. But it should be used every day, not less than an hour before dinner, or after supper. Where the strength will not admit of this, the want of it may be supplied by riding two hours at least on horseback every day before dinner or supper. If neither of these can be borne, the end of both may be answered by riding in a carriage . . . . Those who cannot afford this, may use a chamber-horse, which will suit every constitution. (Extract from Dr. Cadogan’s Dissertation on the Gout, Preface, §10, Works (Jackson) 14:268.)

Every day of your life take at least an hour’s exercise, between breakfast and dinner. If you will, take another hour before supper, or before you sleep. If you can, take it in the open air; otherwise, in the house. If you cannot ride or walk abroad, use within a dumb-bell or a wooden horse. If you have not strength to do this for an hour at a time, do it at twice or thrice. Let nothing hinder you. Your life is at stake. Make everything yield to this. (“Thoughts on Nervous Disorders, §10, Works (Jackson) 11:520.)

I would allow between six and seven hours [of sleep], at an average, to a healthy man; or an hour more, between seven and eight hours, to an unhealthy man. And I do not remember that in threescore years I have known either man or woman who laid longer in bed than this, (whether they slept or no), but in some years they complained of lowness of spirits. The plain reason of which seems to be, while we while we sleep all the springs of nature are unbent. And if we sleep longer than is sufficient, they are relaxed more than is sufficient, and of course grow weaker and weaker. (“Thoughts on Nervous Disorders,” §7, Works (Jackson) 11:518.)


I see a lot of precedent for this S.E.E.D.S. approach in Wesley’s writings. How about it? What if we broke free of the often idolatrous motivations of body image and weight loss that lead to so many fad diets, false starts and failed efforts? What if we took the long view and focused on sowing health into our bodies on a daily basis? I’m going to give it a shot. I welcome you to join me.

  • Article Tags:
  • health
  • body
  • formation
  • wesley

Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.