Move This Ramadan: Why Exercise is Key to a Healthy and Fulfilling Month both physically and spiritually.

Many are discouraged when it comes to training during Ramadan, whether it’s tiredness or time constraints. This Ramadan, you must move. There’s a difference between movement and going to the gym. I am not saying that you must lift weights or do a strongman competition, but movement is key. Remember that this month is the exemplary month for the rest of the year, so if you omit exercise you are not being honest in your intentions of wanting to carry on all your good habits for the rest of the year. “Start as you intend to finish”, as the saying goes. 

There are some basic principles of physical health that all must understand. The first is that to maintain health you have to use health. The saying, “use it or lose it” is very true in this context. There is a principle in musculoskeletal medicine known as Wolf’s law which states that if a bone is not stressed or loaded it begins to demineralize or in simple terms weaken, on the other hand if that same bone is regularly loaded and stressed it will begin to mineralize and become stronger. The very same principles apply to many other aspects of our physical health be it our muscle strength, our joint mobility, our tissue flexibility, our lung capacity, our balance and even our cardiovascular health.   

It is also important to understand that there are different forms of exercise or movements and not all are the same. Some people think that they are healthy or do enough because they have very active lifestyles or because they walk a lot. Let me make clear here that house work or occasional weather dependent walks in the park are not enough and can not be deemed as integral parts of a healthy lifestyle system. You have to give your body it’s right (Haq). It is entitled to regular, structured and purposeful exercise or maintenance work, as I like to call it. The truth is without working on your physical health you cannot expect it to remain the same or improve but on the contrary it is undoubtedly going to decline. 

There are three elementary categories of movement that I want you to recognize and appreciate. Each one is important in its own right and needs due focus and attention in order to attain and maintain physical health.  

  1. 1. Mobility and Balance
  2. 2. Strength and conditioning 
  3. 3. Cardiovascular  

Just because you are flexible does not mean you are strong; if you are strong it does not mean you automatically fit in the cardiovascular sense, and if you are good with your cardio you are not by default flexible. Too many people may run a lot or play football but are then shocked when told their hip mobility is extremely poor.  Some may do regular stretch work but are out of breath going up a flight of stairs and then there are those who are so strong lifting heavy weights but so tight that they can’t bend down to put their own socks on. There are also those that do nothing at all and they are guilty of all of the above.  

Maintaining good physical health is about attaining balance in all areas of movement and not just focusing on one. In a nutshell, it should be recognized that movement is something that has been divinely prescribed for us. Our creator could have easily instructed us to put our palms together and to pray the way Christians do but instead he prescribed set positions and movements for us to complete in order to attain our spiritual connections.  

Think about that for a moment and just reflect on the gravity of it. Understanding this reality should really make us change our mindsets and our attitudes towards exercise and movement as they are not just trivial or pointless actions, but an essential part of our way of life and should be integrated into it in as many ways as possible. This will allow us to take advantage of the life maintaining properties movement provides such as its energy expenditure, lymphatic flow, improved circulation, mental acuity, mood enhancement, skill acquisition and more. In the most literal sense I want you to appreciate that movement is medicine and we have been prescribed a minimum of 5 doses a day.  We all have access to it and we all need our daily dose yet too many people in our communities are malnourished in this department and suffer long-term consequences and illness as a result.  

“Indeed, Allah loves the strong believer more than the weak believer, while there is good in both. Guard over that which benefits you, seek help from Allah, and do not lose heart.” (Sahih Muslim 2664)

For those struggling with the idea of wasting their time during Ramadan on health goals, the above narration of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) highlights the importance of one’s physical health. Provided you better yourself with the intention of pleasing your creator, even exercise becomes a form of worship and can have huge effects on mental clarity, productivity and spirituality.

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