Why you should exercise in Ramadan: What happens to your body if you STOP working out?

Why you should exercise in Ramadan: What happens to your body if you STOP working out?

Know the risks before you decide to “stop exercising” in Ramadan.

SUMMARY: One of the leading causes of weight gain for many Muslims around the world during Ramadan is a sudden shift to a completely sedentary lifestyle. Many Muslims stop exercising completely and try to sit and “rest” as much as possible while fasting. It doesn’t have to be this way! This article will help you understand why movement in Ramadan is essential to your overall health, energy and performance in Ramadan!  

 

When some Muslims see another Muslim exercising during Ramadan, a common response is to criticise them and say, “Why can’t you even take a break during Ramadan?”

Although some Muslims choose to take Ramadan as a break from exercise, others who are regular in their exercise have come to rely upon the positive effects of exercise in their life, and do not want to be deprived of these benefits during Ramadan.

If you are regular in your workouts, suddenly stopping exercising for a prolonged period of time should be avoided. There are numerous negative consequences of suddenly stopping an exercise regimen as your body experiences exercise withdrawal.

 

If you suddenly STOP exercising during Ramadan…

  • Exercise withdrawal leads to negative mood: Numerous studies have shown that when participants suddenly stopped exercising for 2 weeks, they experienced a significant increase in a negative mood(3)(5)(13)
  • Exercise withdrawal leads to increased fatigue: Exercise withdrawal (suddenly stopping exercise) is associated with increased feelings of fatigue(4)(13)
  • Stop exercising and your cardio will get worse: Studies of endurance cyclists show a 50% decrease in endurance after just 12 days without training(7), and a 20% decrease in VO2 max (your aerobic capacity – the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in) after 12 weeks(6). Another study found that after just 4 weeks of stopping exercise, improvements in VO2 max that took 2 months to acquire were completely lost(9).
  • You will experience losses in your hard-earned strength gains:
    • If you are experienced at working out… You may retain your general strength during a month without exercise, but endurance and sports-specific muscle fibres can become deconditioned in as little as 2 weeks without exercise. A review study of runners, rowers, and power athletes found that endurance athletes and competitive lifters experienced deconditioning of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibres, respectively, much quicker than generalised strength loss(9).
    • If you are newer to working out… your losses in strength after stopping exercise may be slower but still significant. One study found 6 months after a strength program, 50% of strength gains were lost(10).
  • Even short-term exercise withdrawal can potentially affect cognitive functioning in your brain. One study found just 10 days of acute exercise withdrawal resulted in decreased blood flow to areas of the brain including the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes in athletes. The frontal lobe is associated with executive functions such as planning(8).
  • The older you get, the harder it is to bounce back. One study found that older adults may lose strength up to twice as fast as younger individuals(12).
  • If you stop exercising during Ramadan, you are much more likely to quit exercising altogether. When you try to restart after Ramadan inactivity, your performance will be worse, tough cardio will be even harder and more painful, and you may have experienced strength losses. This all has a significant effect on your motivation and many people will be unable to motivate themselves to get back into it and drop out of exercise completely. Maintaining consistency, especially for beginners, is one of the MOST important things you can do for your budding exercise habit. 

 

Staying active during Ramadan will not only improve your health, but it will boost your energy and allow you to reach your Ramadan worship goals, inshAllah!

Although the fact that exercise is “good for you” is common knowledge, it’s worth briefly recapping some of the specific benefits that regular exercise can do for you:

People who exercise regularly and stay active…

  • Have lower rates of all-cause mortality (death from any cause), coronary heart disease (eg. heart attack), high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon and breast cancer, and depression. You are more likely to live a longer, healthier life when you exercise. 
  • Develop a higher level of cardiorespiratory and muscular health & strength. This means more muscle tone as you get older, and the ability to stay active as you age doing all the activities you love. 
  • Are less at risk for hip or vertebral fracture. As you get older, when you exercise, you are less at risk for debilitating injuries such as fractures and broken bones. 
  • Are more likely to achieve weight loss, weight maintenance and a healthier body composition. You are more likely to look, feel and function better when you stay active. 
  • Are higher in feelings of self-efficacy. When you exercise, you naturally develop personal belief you are capable of affecting change in the world and a competent individual, which has profound impacts on your self-esteem. 
  • Experience the release of the endorphins in the brain, which induces positive feelings. Physical activity also increases sensitivity to the hormones norepinephrine and serotonin, which can help reduce negative feelings of depression. Your brain releases “happy hormones” when you exercise that makes you feel more cheerful and positive and help you deal with stress, every day. 

 

Get Your Ramadan Checklist!

How can exercise help make you a better Muslim in Ramadan?

Let’s consider a fitting analogy… Every sport has its playoff and championship season. This is a time where the players give their best effort and fans cheer on in support and encouragement! Throughout the playoffs, the players maintain peak performance by optimising their focus, energy and strength. The best athletes recognise that reaching their goals can only come from a mind that is focused, and a body that is energised. These athletes ensure that anything they put into their bodies will not take them away from this zone of success. They are disciplined with their sleep, entertainment and even socializing.

Ramadan is playoff time for the believer! It is the season where we all lay it on the line, striving to seek nearness to Allah and receiving His Forgiveness. And, the prizes to be won are far more precious than any championship medal! The gates of Heaven are thrown open, and the gates of Hell are closed.

The Prophet Muhammad said: “(Allah says about the fasting person), ‘He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times’” [Bukhari].

This is a time to obtain mercy, blessings and forgiveness like no other!

Having the state of consciousness necessary to be connected with Allah during these days requires intense spiritual, psychological and physical strength. We need to treat ourselves with even more vigilance than athletes during playoff time, ensuring that we are able to be focused and have the energy when it matters!

The fact is that we can listen to inspiring sermons all month long. But if it is not coupled with the appropriate nutritional, fitness and sleep adjustments, we may find ourselves like so many others, unable to maximise the blessings we are meant to take from this month. 

Our approach at Amanah Fitness is to prescribe a Minimum Effective Dose in Ramadan- the least amount of time spent exercising to meet your body’s fitness needs and improve your overall health. 

The biggest challenge is maintaining safe exercise despite dehydration while fasting. In the next article, learn about the impact of dehydration on your body and exercise performance, so you can be prepared to modify your workouts accordingly!

Healthy FOOD, EXERCISE and SLEEP must come together for your HEALTHIEST Ramadan ever! Luckily, we’ve got you covered!

The Ramadan Reset eBook is your complete solution to healthy eating, exercise, sleep, coffee and so much more in Ramadan! With 90 dietitian-created recipes, full fasting fitness schedules for ALL levels, your Ramadan will never be the same! Click HERE to learn more! 

 

References

    1. Roncal-Jimenez, C., Lanaspa, M. A., Jensen, T., Sanchez-Lozada, L. G., & Johnson, R. J. (2015). Mechanisms by which dehydration may lead to chronic kidney disease. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 66(Suppl. 3), 10-13.
    2. Crostra, P. (2018). Dehydration: Symptoms, causes, and treatments. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153363.php
    3. Poole, L., Hamer, M., Wawrzyniak, A. J., & Steptoe, A. (2011). The effects of exercise withdrawal on mood and inflammatory cytokine responses in humans. Stress, 14(4), 439-447.
    4. Kop, W. J., Weinstein, A. A., Deuster, P. A., Whittaker, K. S., & Tracy, R. P. (2008). Inflammatory markers and negative mood symptoms following exercise withdrawal. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 22(8), 1190-1196.
    5. Weinstein, A. A., Deuster, P. A., & Kop, W. J. (2007). Heart rate variability as a predictor of negative mood symptoms induced by exercise withdrawal. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 39(4), 735-741.
    6. Madsen, K., Pedersen, P. K., Djurhuus, M. S., & Klitgaard, N. A. (1993). Effects of detraining on endurance capacity and metabolic changes during prolonged exhaustive exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 75(4), 1444-1451.
    7. Coyle, E. F., Martin 3rd, W. H., Sinacore, D. R., Joyner, M. J., Hagberg, J. M., & Holloszy, J. O. (1984). Time course of loss of adaptations after stopping prolonged intense endurance training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 57(6), 1857-1864.
    8. Alfini, A. J., Oh, H., Weiss, L. R., Smith, T. J., Leitner, B. P., Toledo, R., … & Spangenburg FACSM, E. E. (2015). Effects of Detraining on Resting Cerebral Blood Flow in Master Athletes. In International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings (Vol. 9, No. 3, p. 2).
    9. Mujika, I., & Padilla, S. (2001). Muscular characteristics of detraining in humans. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 33(8), 1297-1303.
    10. Staron, R. S., Malicky, E. S., Leonardi, M. J., Falkel, J. E., Hagerman, F. C., & Dudley, G. A. (1990). Muscle hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance-trained women. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 60(1), 71-79.
    11. Toraman, N. F. (2005). Short term and long term detraining: is there any difference between young-old and old people?. British journal of sports medicine, 39(8), 561-564.
    12. Lemmer, J. T., Hurlbut, D. E., Martel, G. F., Tracy, B. L., EY IV, F. M., Metter, E. J., … & Hurley, B. F. (2000). Age and gender responses to strength training and detraining. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(8), 1505-1512.
    13. Berlin, A. A., Kop, W. J., & Deuster, P. A. (2006). Depressive mood symptoms and fatigue after exercise withdrawal: the potential role of decreased fitness. Psychosomatic medicine, 68(2), 224-230.

 

How to avoid dehydration when exercising in Ramadan?
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