Rest – it’s the important flip side of physical fitness


I found a fascinating article at by Jerusalem author and lecturer Michael Kaufman, who has published nine books on Jewish thought and, at 86, has long active days, including daily workouts on his elliptical trainer while reading and studying.  

In “5 Surprising Facts about Judaism, Health and Fitness,” Kaufman writes that Maimonides, the great 12th-century rabbi, declared that “Having a healthy and fit body is what God wants.” 

Maimonides ruled, Kaufman continued, that “ ‘one is obliged to refrain from all things that impair the body and adopt those elements that strengthen it.’ ” 

Kaufman further says that Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, the 19th-20th-century sage known as the Chafetz Chaim, “ ‘observed that it is a mitzvah to take care of your life and health.’ ”

But it is also important to balance physical activity with rest. We are so busy doing and running, and meeting our schedules and those of our families, that before we know it, we often find that the day is done and we are exhausted. So many times we do not stop until we have to. It isn’t until we get sick or have an accident that we pay attention. During cold and flu season, it’s particularly important that we make time to rest.     

Wouldn’t it be better for us if we paid attention to the signals that we are moving too fast, doing too much and overloading our system before we start to break down? 

We don’t pay attention because when we get going, our warning signals get overridden by the activity. It’s not until we have to rest and reflect on our daily lives that we see what has happened. The stress of continual motion affects our body, mind and spirit, and we need time to recuperate.

When we feel that we cannot rest, even though we know we need to, mini-breaks will help to replenish ourselves. These can include drinking plenty of fluids (especially water), and calming our nervous system with soothing music, colors, sounds, food and people. That prescription really works when we are depleted and need rest and healing.

Depending on how rundown we feel, healing can take some time. This is challenging for those of us who are used to busy schedules. We need to pace ourselves and stop when we feel tired or low on energy. 

When we are not feeling our best, it’s time to pause and rest. There are so many ways we can take care of ourselves. There are healing movies, books and programs that inspire and uplift us. Prayer and meditation help, as do appreciating who we are. We can draw, sing, create new visions for our work and use our creative gifts to fortify and rejuvenate ourselves.

Rest and sleep are gifts. They bring us an opportunity to refresh our bodies and minds. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.” 

If slowing down seems difficult to you, start with Shabbat; it’s the perfect time for the three Rs: rest, reflection and rejuvenation.

PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She has served on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.