Exercise and lifestyle tips during Ramadan

This year, Ramadan falls in April to May and Muslims in the UK are fasting from around 4am (Sehri) to 8pm (Iftar). In this article, Dr Asif Naseem, a GP and practicing Muslim with a background in Health & Wellbeing, and Mr James Viner, Clinic Manager and Senior Health & Wellbeing Physiologist, provide advice on how to keep yourself fit and healthy if you are fasting.

All across the world, Muslims are currently taking part in Ramadan, where they fast from sunrise to sunset for a full lunar month.

As no food or drink is permitted during this time, energy stores will be low and people can be prone to dehydration and tiredness. Most people will lose weight during the month, however, the odd timings of eating combined with broken sleep can cause some people to gain weight.

Whichever camp you fall in, it is important to keep yourself fit and healthy through regular activity, but how do you do this safely?

Time your exercise

Exercising before dawn might be the easiest way for some people. This gives you a chance to build up your energy stores before the next fast and your muscles will need that energy during your workout.

If this is not for you, then aim to exercise during the cooler parts of the day, maintaining some light, regular activity through the day such as walking, taking stairs, parking the car further away or getting off a train stop earlier. You can use ice packs to cool yourself down around the neck, arm pits and groin, which will reduce excess sweating.

Don’t overdo it!

For all the reasons mentioned above, you may struggle to maintain energy levels during high-intensity exercises and ultimately cause injuries or too much stress to your body. Stick to brisk walking, light jogging or other forms of light aerobic workouts.

If you are weight training then reduce the amount of weight you usually use and increase your repetitions to maintain tone.

Eat smart

Different cultures have amazing foods they share with family during Iftar. It is best to avoid too many oily, fried or sugary foods. Reduce your portion sizes and eat smaller amounts over a longer period as this will prevent bloating and indigestion.

Aim to have foods that release energy slowly like wholegrains, oats and foods high in fibre – these will keep you going through the day and reduce hunger pangs. Ensure you are getting the essential nutrients and vitamins through fresh fruit and vegetables.

Hydrate

Use the non-fasting hours to hydrate. This is vital in preventing you from falling ill or even fainting, particularly as the days get longer. Not drinking enough can affect your alertness levels during the day.

Aim to have isotonic drinks such as sports drinks or make your own by adding a pinch of salt in squash or juice from concentrate. Semi-skimmed milk is also very hydrating.

Use this time to reset

Ramadan is not about starving yourself and suffering. As you're not bound by eating it provides many opportunities to reflect and be spiritual, charitable and not over-indulge.

It could be an opportunity to help break any bad habits you may have picked up during the year, connect with family and fellow Muslims in the practice of praying and worship, focus on your mind, practise self-discipline, and detox your body and mind.

Last updated Thursday 29 April 2021