We are beings made of body and soul and there are many that express the importance of a synthesis of physicality and spirituality. There are many divrei Chazal that tackle how to attain spiritual greatness let alone whole sefarim on the issue (Chovot Halevavot, Mesilat Yesharim, etc.). The Rambam in Hilchot De'ot brings down dietary laws pertaining to health and goes as far as recommending and discouraging different foods.

Aside from over indulgence in physicality ('Achilat Gasa') are there any sources which speak about how to positively approach something like exercise as a means to improve physical well being and health?


2 Answers 2


I see that Ohr Somayach was asked the question and replied quoting the Rambam. In particular it says,

Regarding what type and how much exercise one needs, the Torah approach is to rely on the advice of the experts. The Rambam defined exercise as "vigorous or gentle movement, or a combination of the two, which increases one’s breathing rate." Interestingly, this is exactly the type of cardiovascular exercise advised by modern medicine like walking, jogging, dancing, biking, or swimming for 30 minutes at least three times a week.

An "even more important way of guarding our health" is:

Keeping the mitzvot (which) brings the body in healthy balance with the spiritual energy of the Torah.

Mesora.org has a similar approach but says:

Maintaining one’s body is clearly a most important means towards spiritual perfection; therefore, one must never be too focused on the means, and lose sight of his true goals. The lion’s share of one’s activities must certainly be in the spiritual arena – Talmud Torah, Chessed, characteristic refinement, etc. – while the Guf is maintained as a Kli, a vessel, which is essential for his pursuit of spirituality. Obviously, one with this goal would spend much more time and energy on the latter. Even when spending time on the Guf, one may try to be involved in the spiritual, such as exercising while listening to a Shiur, riding a stationary bike while reading a Saifer, etc.

  • "Even more important"? What happened to chamira sakanta meisura?
    – Double AA
    Aug 22, 2013 at 18:35
  • Ohr Someyach quotes "If you listen to the word of Hashem your G-d and do what is just in His eyes, give ear to His commandments and observe all His decrees, then the diseases that I placed upon Egypt, I will not bring upon you, for I am G-d your healer" (Exodus 15:26), and understands it (more than?) literally; i.e. keep the mitzvos and you will be healthy - even without exercise! Aug 25, 2013 at 11:22

I'm not sure of any sources, but here is my view of it: positively approaching exercise means undertaking physical activity such as muscle toning and building strength in order to improve your life. You are required to take care of yourself and your body. You're required to take care of your life, period. For example, if you have a medical emergency, you are required to break Shabbat in order to save your life.

If you notice a difference in how you feel, i.e, you're more energetic after exercise, your posture has improved, or perhaps back pain has decreased from the new muscle strength you've acquired, then that is positive. For example, your back pain has decreased and posture has improved because you started exercising, and now you have better posture and can sit studying Torah longer, why would that be a bad thing? In this sense exercise is good.

Not everyone is given perfect health, and achieving benefits from exercise that would help you focus on other more important things (such as Torah), is definitely positive, and is just one of the many challenges in life.

  • 2
    It's not very useful to answer requests for sources with "I'm not sure of any sources".
    – Double AA
    Aug 22, 2013 at 0:56

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