We all know exercise works to prevent, improve, or control many health conditions. It is also fun and feels great. But what about during Ramadan? Religious duties, family and friends take priority but you can still maintain your fitness levels or at least remain as active as your body allows. Exercise in Ramadan is less about going to the gym, or having a structured program but rather incorporating some physical activity into your daily life. The key to safe exercising in Ramadan is to adjust your routine and listen to YOUR body. During the day (while fasting) focus on maintaining normal activities and catching up on sleep with short power naps.
This guide is not intended to replace any medical advice specific to you but to give you some helpful tips and key pointers.
Intense, even moderate, exercise while in the Ramadan fasting state is not recommended for the general population due to the risk of dehydration and hypoglycemia. There is a lot of information available on the internet about intermittent fasting and exercise. Most are personal experiences and anecdotal and sometimes refer to fasts where water intake is not limited so be cautious about taking such advice.
Muslim sports professionals and elite athletes can, and often do, maintain training regimes while fasting without significant health or performance issues, as long as they maintain appropriate total daily calorie, nutritional, and water intake. However, the vast majority of us ARE NOT lean, finely-tuned fitness machines with optimal nutritional diets, support from experienced coaches, and a career that depends on exercise! So save your training until after breaking the fast and always keep a bottle of water on the go!
If you do decide to exercise, do not put yourself at risk of injury or exhaustion by doing too much, too often. Ensure you have adequate sleep, be flexible, keep hydrated, and stop when you need to.
During a Ramadan fast you will be dehydrated more than normal at rest on hot long days, Exercising increases the risk of severe dehydration which is detrimental to health. For most of us, that means resting the body becomes crucial and for fitness enthusiasts, training after sunset becomes the only real option.
Physiological adaptations occur so that the extent of dehydration at rest decreases as Ramadan progresses which may mean you find it easier to start getting active a few days into the month. Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of dehydration and hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) and what to do if you suffer any. Avoid strenuous activity outdoors during the day, especially in the heat.
You must see your doctor for a Pre-Ramadan assessment if you have ANY health conditions Diabetics, and those with heart or kidney disease, asthmatics, etc MUST have a medical assessment 4-8 weeks before Ramadan commences for specific, individualized advice on fasting safely, medication adjustments and advice on diet and physical activity. Most Muslims are reluctant to avoid fasting, even if they have chronic conditions, and providing Ramadan-focussed education has been shown to empower patients to make healthy lifestyle changes minimizing hypoglycemic events and preventing weight gain. Use the resources at the end to help you stay healthy and safe.
Your Ramadan experience will be unique to YOU. Speaking from personal experience, the fitter and more health-conscious you are BEFORE Ramadan, the more likely you are to make healthier food choices, remain active, and generally feel better DURING and AFTER Ramadan
It’s never too late to get started, so set aside time to prepare, get motivated, and get moving! Every little bit of activity counts no matter what your age, race, religion or health condition and will help you throughout life, not just Ramadan.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and fulfilling Ramadan!
1- BaHammam A, Alrajeh M, Albabtain M, Bahammam S, Sharif M. Circadian pattern of sleep, energy expenditure, and body temperature of young healthy men during the intermittent fasting of Ramadan.
2- Roky R, Houti I, Moussamih S, Qotbi S,Aadil N .Physiological and chronobiological changes during Ramadan intermittent fasting
3- Chaouachi A, Leiper JB, Chtourou H, Aziz AR, Chamari K.The effects of Ramadan intermittent fasting on athletic performance: recommendations for the maintenance of physical fitness.
4- Leiper JB1, Molla AM, Molla AM Effects on health of fluid restriction during fasting in Ramadan.
5- Bravis V1, Hui E, Salih S, Mehar S, Hassanein M, Devendra D Ramadan Education and Awareness in Diabetes (READ) programme for Muslims with Type 2 diabetes who fast during Ramadan.