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Adjusting exercise routine during Ramadan

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Ramadan has come with heavenly blessings to us once again, and along with spiritual development, youth can take this opportunity to realise their fitness goals, too. Healthy adults in our Muslim community perform 13-plus hours of fasting, which, in fitness terminology, is a form of intermittent fasting.

Since there's a long fasting hour, it's easy to limit overeating by being intentional. The traditional feeding window during Ramadan is after 6 pm to probably 11 pm, and then waking up at 4 am to have Sehri. So, it's easier to maintain in terms of diet, but how about physical activities? Engaging in physical exercise is equally important to stay at the top of your fitness.

Studies have indicated that a 30-day fast without performing any physical exercise lowers one's strength and physical fitness. Ramadan requires Muslims to stay active to maintain their health.

Exercise promotes mindfulness and increases energy levels, allowing people to focus on their spiritual and physical well-being. Furthermore, regular physical exercise during Ramadan promotes overall health, complementing the fasting period with vitality and power.

Now that we have been made aware that physical activity is essential and can be done safely, what should be the timing of the workout? Is it better for someone fasting to work out before or after Iftar?

Before Iftar

When exercising before Iftar, appropriate safety measures and guidelines should be maintained. Exercise right before Iftar should be brief, lasting no more than 60 minutes, and ideally in a cool environment. The workout's volume and intensity should be lower than regular time. After breaking the fast, one needs to ensure that they get enough water and other fluids to replenish the salts and minerals the body has lost and, finally, take plenty of rest.

After Iftar

Two to three hours after breaking the fast is a good time to work out because by then, one's body has finished digesting and is ready to give one the energy to perform better. One should take light Iftar to do any cardio or sports activities.

Let's look at the common types of physical activities that youths can do safely. Any age group can also do all sorts of workouts; just make sure you are familiar with the workout protocol, do not overdo it and listen to your body. The following are some suggestions that youths can follow.

Low-intensity cardio: During the non-fasting hours, perform low-intensity cardio workouts like jogging, cycling, swimming, or walking. On most days of the week, try to engage in moderate activity for at least 30 minutes. Walking is the most underrated workout we generally do. It has enormous health benefits, such as helping to lose body fat and improve insulin sensitivity.

Bodyweight workouts: At home or in a quiet place, engage in bodyweight exercises, including planks, squats, lunges, and push-ups. These equipment-free workouts support the maintenance of muscle strength and tone. You just need a small space, a yoga mat and 15-30 minutes of your time to complete a bodyweight sweat session even from the comfort of your home.

Weight training: You can do weight training during the non-fasting hours in Ramadan. Grab a pair of dumbbells or go to a gym for your desired weight training. The focus should be on maintaining regular fitness and muscle mass.

Yoga and stretching: To increase flexibility, mobility, and relaxation, engage in mild yoga or stretching exercises. To strengthen the mind-body connection, concentrate on mindfulness and deep breathing. If possible, engage in mild yoga or stretching routines before the Sehri to boost energy levels and metabolism for the day ahead.

General guidelines for physical activities during Ramadan are as follows:

Aim to maintain: Starting some new training protocols during Ramadan would be unwise. Also, this is not the time to aim for 1 rep max in the gym or personal bests in a run. Instead, focus on keeping up the progress you've already made. Tithi Chowdhury, an early career professional and a health nut, says, "I aim to do 3-4 weight training and 2 running sessions per week. I will keep it easy regarding intensity and volume, ensuring I get 8-10 thousand steps daily. This is realistic and doable for me considering the Ramadan schedule."

Cut back volume and intensity: Don't be afraid to reduce the volume and intensity compared to usual training. For example, if you do 90 minutes of weight training six times a week, you should aim to do 60 minutes, probably four to five times a week. The same goes for intensity; if you could exercise with 30kg, 40kg and 50kg in three sets, you should probably go for 20kg, 30kg and 40kg, respectively, during Ramadan. The same goes for cardiovascular training, less time on the pitch, and less exertion.

Stay hydrated: Double down on hydration between Iftar and Sehri. Also, drink plenty of water during exercises to replenish fluids lost during fasting. Another good point to note is that hydration doesn't have to come only from the water intake - eating fluid-rich fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, oranges, berries, cucumber, tomatoes, spinach, etc., when you break your fast will help to keep you hydrated, too.

If you're doing everything to stay hydrated but still experiencing any of the following symptoms: dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, fast heart rate, etc, pull back on exercise and try to bring your heart rate down.

Skip excess salty, sugary or caffeinated products

Excessive consumption of salty packaged food and caffeinated beverages like soft drinks and coffee will cause dehydration. "I took a 30-day Ramadan transformation challenge and will significantly drop the intake of deep-fried foods, sugary foods or beverages and packaged foods. I intend to increase the consumption of home-cooked meals during Ramadan," Nabeen Khan, a fitness enthusiast music producer, shared.

Consult a doctor

Consult a healthcare professional or fitness coach for individualised advice and guidance if you have any underlying health conditions during Ramadan. Pay attention to your body's signals and adjust your routines accordingly.

Md. Abdul Mukit is a Founder of Shustho. He is also a Lifestyle Coach. Reach him at [email protected]

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