How to stay active during Ramadan

Experts share their tips for keeping active and healthy if you’re observing Ramadan.

Ramadan is a time of fasting from sunrise to sunset – but also a period of self-reflection, charity, prayer and good deeds. But can you still exercise to keep healthy during this holy month?

The answer to this is yes and we’ve got the best advice from the experts on how you can keep active and healthy.

A Muslim couple hiking in the woodsCredit: Shutterstock/Malik Nalik
Walking is a great way of staying active during Ramadan

We caught up with mountaineer and marathon runner Haroon Mota, at the National Outdoor Expo, in Birmingham. Mota founded the walking community Muslim Hikers and is not only organising group walks during the holy month, but will be running the Boston Marathon on April 17.

He told us: “Carry on exercising during Ramadan, but be sensible. The most important message is to listen to your body and learn what it can do in the circumstances.”

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What is the best time to exercise during Ramadan?

Mohsin Hussain, from Puregym Birmingham, says: “Between fasting, spending time with family and prayers, it can be difficult to have the time and energy to exercise during Ramadan.

“Physiologically speaking, the best time to train would be during your eating window between sunset and sunrise. This is when your body will be refuelled from Iftar, and you’ll be able to drink water, as well as refuel after.

“However, it may not always be possible to train during this time as this is when you would normally be asleep.

A man standing in front of weights in a gymCredit: Puregym Birmingham
Hussain says training an hour before sunset means you can refuel and rehydrate at Iftar

“Training an hour or so before Iftar is also a good option, as it means you can drink water and eat once you’ve finished working out. You’ll be hungry and dehydrated at this point, so step back the intensity – now is not the time for high-intensity cardio sessions or trying to get a personal best.”

Don’t overdo it

Exercising on an empty stomach can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels which can cause light-headedness. It can also be easy to get dehydrated if you exercise during fasting.

Dr Ayazullah Safi is a lecturer in the Department of Public Health at Birmingham City University.

Dr Safi says: “Walking is the easiest form of exercise to fit in to your day because we do it all the time. You can increase the benefits of walking by trying brisk or ‘power walking’, which requires all of your muscles to dynamically move and help you achieve optimal fitness.

“Remember that you will not have the same amount of energy when you are fasting. Avoid high-intensity exercises like sprinting or lifting heavy weights.

“You can still improve your stamina and fitness with more gentle cardiovascular activity. Try brisk walks around the park, cycling or jogging, but keep workouts short – 30 to 60 minutes is plenty.”

A close up of a manCredit: Dr Ayazullah Safi
Dr Safi says to listen to your body when exercising so you don’t overdo it

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough fluids is vital if you are balancing keeping active with fasting. Drink at least 8-12 glasses of fluid (about two litres) daily between Iftar and Sahoor.

Avoid drinks with caffeine, as it is a diuretic and could make you more dehydrated.

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Think about nutrition

When you are fasting between 11-18 hours a day, depending on what time of year Ramadan falls, you need to choose nutrient-rich food to keep your energy levels up and avoid losing weight.

Dr Saffir says: “Some of the things you need to avoid are salt, caffeine, sugars and processed foods.

“It is equally vital to consume a meal that includes a good balance of starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes, rice and bread, along with a good intake of vegetables, proteins such as meat, chicken or fish, and dairy for the natural fats.

“Remember that there is only a small window to provide your body with all the key nutrients that the body needs, so the focus of your diet needs to be on quality.”

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Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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