In order to meet the needs of their congregants as well as attract new members, an increasing number of churches are sponsoring fitness initiatives. In general, Christian churches are leading this trend within the U.S., but some temples, mosques and other places of worship are also beginning to offer fitness classes and workout equipment.

What’s Driving the Trend

Religious leaders found that many are developing a more positive association to the institution and the faith after opening up their facilities to fitness enthusiasts and incorporating faith-based encouragement during the workouts. In addition to reaching out to a new generation of worshipers, faith groups have expressed a growing concern about the lack of fitness in the American population. Many consider it part of their mission to encourage healthy living as well as healthy spirits.

Benefits for Participants

For congregants, the immediate benefit of a church workout or joining a worship center’s basketball, bowling and other sports league, is that they usually receive a significant discount on the facility or class fees, which makes it more budget-friendly than a traditional gym.

But whether or not they belong to the church, temple or mosque in which they exercise, a religion-based program may spur people to work out more often. Through music and the instructors’ faith-centered encouragement, classes tend to underscore the idea that your body is a temple, and that keeping yourself fit is part of a larger ideal than just looking good.

Just as importantly for many members, working out with other people in a place of worship is another aspect of fellowship. The ability to socialize with friends and neighbors, as well as to meet new, supportive people, inspires many to go to the church’s facility more often than they would a more impersonal fitness center.

Contacting the place of worship to which you belong about potential fitness opportunities is the obvious place to start, but a resource such as Faith and Fitness Magazine may also be helpful.