Many people are nervous to exercise during the month of Ramzan, but Health24′s Fitness Expert, Habib Noorbhai (Biokineticist), says that if you follow certain guidelines it is perfectly safe. Here are his tips.
The importance of exercise during Ramzan
Noorbhai says that there is research showing that fasting for 30 consecutive days without exercise can result in a regression of strength and fitness. “Individuals who train a minimum of three days a week for 11 months, but avoid training during the month of Ramzan, often face a setback with regard to cardiovascular and resistance adaptations.”
According to him, it is ‘imperative’ that people maintain their exercise routine during Ramzan, and he points out that if you stop exercising for a month it’s equal to losing four months of exercise.
However, he adds that one of the tricks is to maintain your current programme and not intensify your exercise routine (increase in weights, sets, repetitions, speed or distance) during Ramzan.
“Many Muslims find it difficult to exercise during Ramzan, but it’s important to note that this is also a month of patience, sacrifice – and exercising during Ramzan is purely ‘mind over matter’,” he says.
There are some exceptions to this, though, and if you suffer from any chronic diseases, injury or complication, Noorbhai advises that you continue to exercise – with caution.
In particular, he advises that people with type 1 diabetes should not exercise at all, as this can upset their glucose levels profoundly. Type 2 diabetics, however, can continue to exercise at a low-intensity level, but for a maximum of 30 minutes, focusing on aerobic and strength training.
If you suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension, you can also continue to exercise, but at low-intensity, or around 75% of your maximum heart rate. For example: a 60-year old woman’s maximum heart rate would be 160 beats per minute and 75% of 160 is 120 beats per minute. So, a 60-year old hypertensive woman should not exercise during Ramzan at a heart rate of more than 120 beats per minute. These maximum heart rates depend on age, gender and health risk factors.
If you’re recovering from an injury or any other health complications, Noorbhai advises that, when fasting, you exercise at low-intensity for a maximum of 30 minutes, as your body will be using more energy during the recovery phase of injury or pain. This is because not enough energy and glycogen stores are retained for more than 30 minutes when exercising.
In addition, he says that people with chronic diseases or complications often don’t take their medication while fasting, which makes it difficult to manage sugar and cholesterol levels and blood pressure during Ramzan.
When to exercise
So when should you fit in exercise? Noorbhai says the ideal time to train is 90 minutes before iftar.
“After a moderate exercise session, you will not be able to adequately replenish the glycogen stores you burnt during exercise, thus resulting in symptoms like dizziness and nausea. This time is ideal because you’ll be breaking your fast soon afterwards and replacing the energy and glycogen you lost when exercising.”
Here are some of Noorbhai’s top tips for exercising during Ramzan:
o Terminate exercise immediately when feeling dizzy or nauseous
o Plan when to sleep and when to wake up
o Consider naps and schedule rests as your body experiences more fatigue during Ramzan
o Have a ‘working lunch’ (since you don’t have to eat), then arrange with your boss to leave an hour earlier at the end of the day. This will allow you to get in some time for training before you break your fast.
o Intermittent exercises such as cricket after sunset is a good way to maintain physical activity and fitness
o Endurance, plyometrics, speed and agility training should be avoided completely.
Diet and hydration guidelines
Exercise during fasting can be physically taxing. Noorbhai recommends the following guidelines with regard to your diet and hydration during this time:
o Try to consume 6 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight
o Eat 1.2 to 1.2g of protein per kg of body weight
o Your fat intake should be 20 to 30% of your total energy intake
o Be sure to drink sufficient fluids to prevent a water deficit
o Hydrate often during the night, after sunset and take along a bottle of water if you go to the mosque for taraweeh.