“Ask a Priest: Is it OK to Exercise on Sundays?”

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Q: Would you please be able to tell me Church teaching on doing exercise/working out on Sundays? Is it wrong to do this or is it OK? Thank you very much for your time and the work you do! -C.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your question touches on the first precept of the Church, “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.”

Two numbers in the Catechism help us to understand the context of the precept:

2184 Just as God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,” human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.

2185 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse one from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

In practical terms we could say: If exercise impedes you from worship, do it on another day; if exercise impedes you from “adequate rest and leisure,” do it on another day.

In the mind of the Church, the Lord’s Day needs to be different from other days. So how we choose to live that day should reflect this difference. That choice is in your hands. Prayer will help you make the right choice.

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