WAKE FOREST — Although the trim Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president admits to having a weakness for caffeine and salt, Danny Akin still makes a healthy lifestyle part of his daily regimen.
"That which the Holy Spirit occupies should be treated well and indeed should be treated in an honorable fashion," said Akin, referring to 1 Corinthians.
An avid walker and runner, Akin tries to model healthy choices for his colleagues, students and church leaders.
In his 50s, Akins said, "I don't have to impress anybody anymore," but does make sure he exercises at least three times a week. Generally, he aims at four to six times.
His knees aren't what they used to be so when he runs he goes to the high school next to campus to use their rubber track or to the school's golf course. He keeps a treadmill in his bedroom so he'll have a place in bad weather.
"We do believe it is very important for all believers to take care of their bodies," he said.
Akin said his sons are finding marriage changes their lifestyle. When he was a 140-lb. graduating senior, Akin said he "couldn't gain weight all through school," but that all changed when he got married.
He gained 40 pounds the first year, and he kept gaining – up to 195 pounds.
A doctor friend – who delivered all four sons – asked Akin why he didn't preach on gluttony.
"You ought to take seriously your health," the doctor said.
No family member had lived past 70 until Akin's father, who died in April. Akin knew it was something he needed to address.
Akin began running and even participated in a marathon in 1980.
After he began running, Akin went from 195 lbs to 140 lbs in seven months.
He admits his wife, Charlotte, doesn't exercise much, but "she doesn't push me to do it" either.
All their sons are active.
Timothy is a football coach in Central Asia. Paul continues to play basketball and flag football. Nathan works at the seminary with intramural sports, and Jonathan, a doctor of philosophy student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is the "most sedentary."
When his family was at Southern, he ballooned up to 190 pounds again.
That time when he lost 40 pounds his blood pressure and cholesterol levels did not go down. He said he is genetically predisposed to have issues in those areas so he still takes medicine to regulate those levels.
"We try to be wise," he said. "I can't think of the last time we had anything fried. We try to be more careful."
There are lots of things you can do to get in a fairly balanced range, he said.
Unfortunately, as you age you burn less calories with the same exercise, Akin said.
"Your body is less efficient in terms of burning calories," he said.
Because of his busy schedule Akin generally preaches two or three times on Sundays. He schedules time on Mondays and Friday mornings where he doesn't come to the office until noon. He spends the time exercising, checking e-mails and writing.
"It's easy to get that time eaten up" with other things, he said.
Akin said he has a weakness for Mexican food but knows "his small frame carries weight in his stomach so it is noticeable. I have to be careful because I don't have room for error."
One other area Akin said contributes to a healthy lifestyle is sleep.
He tries to get at least eight hours a night, but would rather have more.
"I should be in the sleeping hall of fame," he said.
Southern Baptist health
During a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting one year, Akin asked a colleague from Southern what he thought of the Convention.
The professor, who has a background as a northern evangelical, was new to the SBC. He said he'd never met such "wonderful, godly men."
"But Dr. Akin I don't know how to say this … I've never seen so many fat preachers in all my life," the professor said.
Akin's response: "Oh, it's an art form."
Since that conversation, Akin said he has tried to be more sensitive, but he doesn't mince words when asked, and he openly shares his opinion from the pulpit.
"Some can hardly walk," he said. "It's clear their weight is bad on their heart. It's a bad witness."
Akin said most leaders don't mind when he preaches against alcohol.
"It always gets very quiet" when he brings up the subject of weight, Akin said. "It's a sin issue. It's a discipline issue."
Any time health screenings are done, Akin said Southeastern "students are excessively overweight. Whenever they do the testing, it's not good."
Akin said he would be surprised if a resolution about weight or obesity ever made it to the floor of the annual meeting.
"It would hit so many people between their eyes," he said.
Unfortunately more people take scripture out of context to justify laziness than staying in shape, Akin said.
Using "bodily exercise profiteth little" and "profits not to the same degree" Akin said people need to remember that while we are planning for the eternal we need to be good stewards of the vessels God has given.
There are no specific texts that say you must run so many days a week. Akin said 1 Corinthian 10:31 tells believers to "do all to the glory of God."
That applies to sleeping, eating, working, exercising, and more, Akin said.
Akin uses what he calls Corinthian principles to teach about taking care of the body. Of each activity or action, people should ask "Can this enslave me?"
"Will this build me up, make me better?" Akin asked.
Akin encourages pastors to share on this topic from the pulpit.
"This is a very good thing that He has made (and) intends to resurrect," he said. "What He has given you is a good gift. It should be taken care of in a good way."