Regular exercise is deemed to be an essential part of everyday routine in the busy and hectic modern lifestyle.
Ramadan observers, however, find it little harder to do or continue doing regular exercise during the holy month because of the changed eating and sleep routine.
To learn and explain how a Ramadan observer can effectively workout during or after the fasting hours, Gulf Times spoke to a physical education expert.
Dr Khalid W Bibi is professor and head of the department of physical education at Qatar University.
l How important is it to exercise during Ramadan?
Regular physical activity is essential throughout the year. In Ramadan, exercise provides further protective benefits. Incorporating exercise and a balanced replenishing diet is critical in preventing muscle mass loss and maintaining physical fitness.
However, few caveats must be considered given the effects the holy month of Ramadan has on regular daily routines.
For example, you might need to consider and account for the length of the fasting period, the environment in which the exercise is conducted, the composition of the food and quantity of fluid consumed between Iftar and Suhoor, and your sleep quality.
l Is it safe to workout while fasting?
Yes, whereas the effect of fasting on performance before Iftar remains unequivocal, research has shown that sports played three hours after Iftar does not increase the risk for injuries in professional athletes.
A comprehensive review of the literature on the effects of Ramadan fasting on physical activity confirms that the majority of physical performance parameters were not negatively influenced by fasting when tested in the morning or the afternoon.
In other words, submaximal exercise is safe when done in a fasting state and is not detrimental to performance.
However, exercise should be avoided immediately after Iftar for a few hours to allow the digestive system to function optimally and replenish the body’s diminished resources.
l What is the best time to exercise during Ramadan and why?
The best time to exercise is individual-specific and best determined by each individual’s fasting habits and the environmental factors in which they function. There are no detrimental effects of fasting on performance in low to moderate physical activity of the day.
However, it is best to engage in exercise about three hours after the Iftar for high-intensity training.
As far strength training, research has shown it to be particularly beneficial when done while fasting.
This beneficial effect seems to be consequent to a favourable hormonal response to resistive training while in the fasting state.
In other words, the human body is more likely to benefit from resistive exercise when training is performed a few hours before Iftar, conditional that a well-balanced meal follows the training.
Except for high-intensity repeated bouts of maximal exercise, such as interval sprinting, athletes appear to be able to compete in a fasting state with little impact on physical performance.
l What are the most suitable exercises that one needs to follow during the holy month for better physical fitness?
The golden rule in exercise compliance is that one should participate in activities they enjoy and are most likely to repeat.
Except for high-intensity physical activity, all forms of exercise are acceptable. Experts suggest brisk walking, slow jogging, cycling, cross-training and light machine exercises.
Workout sessions should be between 30 minutes to 60 minutes for non-competitive recreational athletes.
A warm-up phase should precede, and a cool-down phase should follow the exercise of choice and integrating a stretching/flexibility component can help reduce injuries.
l Are there some exercises that one needs to avoid while fasting, if yes why?
Avoid high-intensity interval training, particularly before Iftar. Research has shown that the human body cannot replenish the muscles fast enough between very high-intensity bouts while in a fasting state.
This may increase the probability of fine motor control loss and musculoskeletal injury. Avoid training in hot and humid conditions.
Instead, train in a thermoneutral environment (21-24 C) where you can sustain the exercise and decrease your fluid and solute loss due to excessive sweating.
Participate in resistive training before Iftar but avoid low-rep/high-intensity exercises.
Partner training especially when using free weights is essential.
l If someone wants to do some sports during non-fasting hours, what would be your suggestion?
Participating in sports or exercise is perfectly fine when performed a few hours after Iftar or before Suhoor.
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