How hard should I be exercising while fasting?

While light to moderate exercises are generally safe, engaging in unaccustomed high intensity and high volume of exercise, especially while fasting, may suppress or even lower your immunity levels, and is therefore not recommended," says Dr Fadzil Hamzah, Senior Staff Registrar, Department of Sport and Exercise Medicine at Changi General Hospital (CGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Thus, do consult your physician before embarking on an exercise programme while fasting if you:

  • Are unsure of your health status

  • Have never exercised

  • Have chronic medical conditions, e.g. diabetes, heart disease, hypertension

  • Are pregnant

  • Feel unwell

What is the recommended amount of exercise while fasting?​

"The recommended amount of exercise while you are fasting really depends on your physical activity levels prior to Ramadan," says Dr Fadzil.

If you have been sedentary and physically inactive

You should:

  • Start low; go slow
  • Aim to stay physically active everyday
  • Break sedentary times as much as possible
  • Incorporate more physical activities into your daily routines into your daily essential routines, e.g. walk instead of drive to the market

In the context of clocking in more steps and practising safe distancing as required, walking is appropriate. Do also avoid the peak periods, and walk a longer distance to avoid the crowded routes.

  1. Take the stairs instead of the lift
  2. Perform your daily house chores to keep your living environment clean

If you have been physically active and exercising regularly

You should:

  • Continue with your current physical activity levels. It is not recommended to increase exercise frequency, intensity and duration when you are fasting
  • Aim to exercise for maintenance; not to push your limits or set new personal records
  • Always listen to your body and modify accordingly

When is a good time to exercise during Ramadan?

It really depends on your personal preference. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages to consider for the different times of day.

In the morning after sunrise (after Sahoor)

  • Advantage: You may have more energy after a pre-fast meal (Sahoor)
  • Disadvantage: You may run the risk of dehydration as there will be no opportunity to refuel thereafter until one breaks fast (Iftar)

In the evening before break fast (Iftar)

  • Advantage: You will have ample opportunity to eat for recovery and hydrate at break fast (Iftar)
  • Disadvantage: Minimal pre-exercise nutritional support

In the evening after break fast (Iftar)

  • Advantage: This timing is ideal for many as it provides the opportunity to fuel and hydrate before and after exercise
  • Disadvantage: This must be balanced against importance of rest/sleep. Avoid exercising 1-2 hours before bedtime to allow your adrenaline (stress hormones) to wind down for better sleep quality

Won't exercising make me thirsty while fasting?

Hydrate adequately to compensate for the loss of body fluids during physical activity or exercise when you are fasting.

  • Good hydration is also essential for your immune system
  • Drink at least 8-12 glasses of fluids (approximately 2 litres) daily between break fast (Iftar) and pre-dawn meal (Sahoor)
  • Avoid caffeine-containing beverages (coffee); caffeine is a diuretic and may predispose you to dehydration

Read on for tips on how to exercise safely during Ramadan fasting (and COVID-19).

Ref: L20

Check out our other Ramadan articles:

Tips for Healthy Ramadan Fasting

Best foods to eat during Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)

Best foods to eat during Iftar (break fast)

Taking Medication During Ramadan

Tips for Safe Fasting When You Have Diabetes