Donna Richardson Joyner Shares Her ‘Body Gospel’

By: Jackie Jones,

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” PHILIPPIANS 4:13

For fitness expert Donna Richardson Joyner, that simple biblical quote is a guiding principal for her and the foundation upon which she has convinced thousands of people to get physically fit.

For more than 20 years, Joyner has traveled the world helping the overweight, the underweight and the malnourished get healthier. However, “my greatest challenge,” she said, “was not overseas. It was right here in my own backyard,” dealing with family, friends and fellow church members who have died, become shut-ins or have developed other illnesses caused or exacerbated by excessive weight and a lack of exercise.

Obesity is a major contributing factor to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But even slender people, who seem to be able to eat whatever they want, put their health at risk with bad dietary habits that contribute to hypertension, heart and arterial disease.

Joyner, who has starred in more than 25 exercise videos, including “Sweating in the Spirit,” and has been inducted into the Fitness Hall of Fame and named by Essence magazine as one of the 25 most inspiring women in America and has served on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said she could no longer sit on the sidelines.

“I could be sad about it and talk about what should be done about it or just take action,” Joyner said.

“The goal, I think, is to focus in on wholeness and a healthy body, mind and spirit,” Joyner said. “I’m going out and speaking every weekend. I see people handling dominion over their money, their spiritual lives, but their temple (body) is broken down, jacked up or needs improvement.
People have tried a lot of programs, but the one thing they aren’t using is their faith as their foundation.”

People who put their faith in God’s ability to help them get their health together are as likely to take fitness as seriously as other aspects of their lives that are rooted in a spiritual foundation, Joyner said.

To help them on that journey, Joyner said she decided to take “Sweating in the Spirit” a step further and created “Body Gospel,” a new faith-based fitness and nutrition program.

Joyner teamed with Beachbody, a leader in home-based fitness and weight-loss products, to create the program, which includes seven workout routines, a nutrition guide, a 30-day workout calendar, a journal and success tracker, training fitness cards, a three-day jump-start plan and specially-designed resistance bands that improve calorie- and fat-burning. Participants work out to spiritual affirmations and reworked versions of gospel favorites.

Body Gospel Club wellness programs have been set up in more than 60 churches nationwide, and participating churches that sell the club products receive a 25 percent commission.

“We will waver on a lot of different things, but like your faith, you don’t waver on that,” Joyner said. “You can’t compromise; this ain’t up for compromise; you can’t trade in your body for another one. Instead of trashing your body, treasure it.”

Making excuses about work, school, a lack of time or money, doesn’t fly with Joyner.

“You’ve got time to watch ‘American Idol,’ ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ Oprah, football on Sunday. People say, ‘I don’t have money,’ but you invest in a BlackBerry, an iPod, iPad, a new bag or a new home. The last time I looked, walking was free. Getting up and putting on some music and dancing to it was free.

“If we serviced our bodies like we service our cars,” said Joyner, “we would be so much healthier. Yet you’ll get a signal and you’ll ignore it.”

Joyner acknowledged that making the commitment to get fit may not be a snap, but it can be done. And the faithful have an edge that many others do not.

“If you trust in God for everything else in your life,” she asks, “why wouldn’t you trust in God for your health?”

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