Exercising whilst fasting

Can you run, walk or cycle?

May 07, 2021

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GoodGym is all about keeping fit and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits. One of the habits I want to explore with you is about exercising whilst fasting.

As it’s the month of Ramadan and I fast regularly, I felt it would be a good time to write this story. It is not targeted just to those who fast for religious purposes but also to those who may be interested in trying it or are just curious to know a little more about how one can fast and continue to be physically active by running, walking or cycling.

It is important to mention that if you are pregnant, are breast feeding or have any health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke or any other condition requiring medical attention and medication it is important to seek guidance from your doctor whether fasting is safe for you.

For centuries fasting has been practised by millions of Muslims around the world during the month of Ramadan which happens every year.

Each year the start date fluctuates by 10 days making it earlier than the previous year. The fluctuating date is based on the lunar Islamic calendar this year starting on 13th/14th April and will last until 12th/13th May.

There are many religious reasons for why fasting is an integral part to a Muslim’s life which range from the spiritual, social, emotional to physical wellbeing focusing on the latter.

Fasting outside religious practices is becoming more popular within the fitness and health sector with numerous pieces of research being shared revealing its health benefits.

Scientific research over the years has found that restricting food intake during the day can help prevent health problems such as high cholesterol, heart disease and helps to manage obesity. It also improves blood sugar control, brain function, cancer prevention/management as well as improvements in mental health and wellbeing.

On a personal note, fasting helps improve my concentration levels. I feel extremely alert and more energised and not fatigued as most would assume. I can’t deny feeling slightly more sleep deprived during Ramadan but a quick “cat nap” can resolve that.

Fasting during Ramadan means to abstain from food and drinks including water from sunrise to sunset. During this period, people’s energy levels fluctuate. Despite this it is important to carry on doing any type of physical activity which you enjoy helping to keep you healthy and fit.

We read so much about how a good detox is beneficial for the body and overall health. Fasting upto 30 days during Ramadan helps the body to go through a detoxifying process which improves an individual's mental and physical health. This also gives the human digestive tract much needed respite from the constant task of digesting and churning food all day.

Consequently intermittent fasting for a few days in a week for non religious reasons around the globe has become a trend amongst health conscious individuals who are benefitting from it greatly. They are reporting improvements with BMI, mental and physical health, improved blood sugars helping to avoid type II diabetes.

Generally speaking, if your body is already quite conditioned to doing regular levels of activity and you are healthy, you can continue to run, walk, cycle and exercise safely during intermittent fasting, provided you do not overexert yourself to the point of exhaustion and unbearable thirst.

If you are a newbie to fasting your ability to exercise for the first few times may feel challenging as this will be the period when the body is adjusting to the new eating schedule. After the adjustment period you should not feel any ill effects from fasting during exercise.

When choosing a time to go for a run, walk or cycle, it is important to be sensible in choosing a time of the day when it is not too hot as you risk dehydration. I find running at a cooler time of the day helps keep the thirst abay.

You must also consider the duration of your chosen activity which limits excessive weight loss, fitness and strength.

It’s up to you to decide whether your body is ready for some exercise just before iftar time (time at which one breaks their fast) or if you enjoy an early morning or midday effort. I for one prefer to do my run either in the morning or around lunch time as that is when I feel more energetic.

It’s best to stick to light cardio which GoodGym is all about - jogging, biking or power walking and keep it to 20 to-45 minutes at a pace which is comfortable for you. I tend to stick to a maximum 5k jog or run at a moderate pace.

In basic terms go easy on the kilometers and focus on maintenance rather than trying to beat your personal bests.

Have your own GoodGym story to share with the community? Email getinvolved@goodgym.org and we'll be in touch.
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