John Wesley on Health

June 19th, 2011

For John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, physical health was as important as spiritual health. In his 1747 work Primitive Physick, or an Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases, Wesley sought to bring practical medical advice to the people of his times.

Wesley had strong advice on what foods people should eat. He recommended eight ounces of “animal food” and “twelve of vegetable, in twenty hours” as being “sufficient.” He also encouraged people to stay away from all pickled, smoked, and over-salted foods and to “suit the quality and quantity of food to the strength of the digestion; to take always such a sort and such a measure of food as sits light and easy on the stomach.”

Wesley also knew the value of exercise, writing that walking “was the best exercise” and that “open air contributes much” to the value of exercise. “We may strengthen any weak part of the body by constant exercise. Thus, the lungs may be strengthened by loud speaking, or walking up an easy ascent; the digestion and the nerves by riding; the arms and hams by strong rubbing them daily.”

Exercise, Wesley said, should always be done on an empty stomach; and cold baths were recommended as a “great advantage” to good health. “It promotes perspiration, helps the circulation of the blood; and prevents the danger of catching cold.”

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