ASK FATHER: Can I workout on Sunday?

From a reader…


I work in an office for 8 hours each weekday. Any physical activity I can get is a welcome relief. Am I able to work out on Sundays without violating the third commandment?

Let’s turn first to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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 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.

So, provided that you are still performing your religious duties according to the 1st Commandment of the Church (i.e., attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation), you can work out.

In general, we should avoid strenuous work on Sundays.  A “work out” is, by definition, “work”, but of a different kind than most labor.  First, though it is hard, we derive a real good and satisfaction from it.  By working out, you are caring for your body, which is your responsibility before God to do.

It is also possible to pray, for example, the Rosary while working out or running, etc.

That reminds me of the old chestnut about whether or not it is permitted for priests to smoke a cigar while reciting their breviary.  The answer is, of course, No, it is not permitted.  However, it IS permitted to pray the breviary while smoking a cigar.  I think a Jesuit came up with that one.  An oldie but goodie.

If some activity hinders you from fulfilling your obligations or if, after examining your conscience you sense that is lessened Sunday as an important time to rest in the Lord, as the Lord Himself rested on the seventh day, then leave that activity aside on Sunday.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mariana2 says:

    The way I heard it, it was smoking while studying the Talmud…. : ).

  2. Unwilling says:

    The first time I saw the praying while smoking conundrum, it was by Vbl. Fulton Sheen.

  3. nonsumdignus says:

    Even better, run whilst praying the Rosary. Download and listen to Christian Peschken to help you keep track. Makes every step an offering!

    For the gym, download FrZ’s prayers and litanies from EWTN, and let the graces flow while you sweat.

  4. APX says:

    Is one permitted to go to the gym and workout on Sundays, or is that similar in that by shopping on Sundays we require other people to work?

    I just finished shovelling 6 inches of snow out of my walkway which is actually a 150 cm pit in the ground at its deepest point. In 15 minutes I had a total body workout.

  5. Philmont237 says:

    It has been a while since I have read this book, but I believe it answers this exact question with quotes by His Holiness Pius XII. It is called “Fit for Eternal Life” by Kevin Vost.

  6. Justin Martyr says:

    I personally listen to faithful Catholic podcasts…including the Fr. Z casts (especially the daily ones during Advent & Lent) while lifting weights and running.

  7. Pingback: SHROVE TVESDAY LENT EDITION – Big Pulpit

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