As you’re going up the short flight of stairs, you stop, struggling to take your next breath. At that moment, you come to realization that something needs to change. Physical activity plays an integral role in our overall health status. Therefore, when we neglect setting time aside for physical activity, it can result in a negative impact on our health.
We all know that incorporating exercises in our day to day lives is good for our health, but to what extent? One of the many benefits derived through physical activity is that it helps fight against health conditions and disease, one of which being cardiovascular disease. With increase in physical activity, we are able to improve our cholesterol levels by increasing our good cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing our bad cholesterol (LDL) (1). Exercises also provides for a drug free approach to lowering blood pressure through strengthening your heart (1). This allows the heart to pump more blood with less effort. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, exercise may just be your answer. Physical activity improves the quality and duration of your sleep (2). It is suggested that the post exercise temperature drop is what promotes the falling asleep as well as the decrease in arousal, anxiety, and depressive symptoms which are commonly linked to insomnia (2). Another well known benefit to exercise is its positive effects on weight management. Regular physical activity has proven to help increase metabolic rate, allowing us to burn more calories resulting in weight loss when coupled with healthy eating habits (3). Last but not least, exercise has also shown to increase energy levels. Now most of you are wonder how this possible since we feel too exhausted to even get off our couch to exercise. The increase in energy occurs at a cellular level. When we exercise, we increase the number of mitochondria in the body so that we are able to produce more available energy for our body (4).
As a Muslim it is essential that we take care of our spiritual, emotional and physical health. With a body that is weak, it makes it difficult for us to even full fill the basic 5 pillars of Islam. The performance of our five daily prayers is a form of exercise in its self, which can become difficult due to our weight or disease. Fasting during the month of Ramdhan as well as performing Hajj requires us to be in good health due to the strength that is needed to complete these hard efforts. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said “A strong believer is better and is more loveable to Allah than a weak believer” reported by Abu Hurraira (5). This statement translates to both our strength in our faith and our physical strength that is seen to be more desirable.
The recommended physical activity guideline for adults (18-64 yrs) is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise as recommended by the World Health Organisation. Now this may look like a big number but it’s simply just 30 minutes of exercise 5 days of the week. At this point you’re either convinced you can do it or you’re already planning your list of excuses from “I don’t have any time” to “Gym memberships are too expensive”. Just as we have time to endlessly scroll through out phones, we can find 30 minutes in our day to get active. Exercise does not have to take place at the gym, it can be you going for a brisk walk at the end of your day or during your lunch break. Feel free to ask family or friends to join you as having a buddy can help motive you and create a sense of accountability. You can also utilize the internet by going on Youtube to search for exercise videos. For those of you with kids or younger siblings, join them in their play time when outside on the play ground or field to get your exercise in. It’s never too late to get started on improving your health, make today your day one and take your 30 minutes walk.
Reid, Kathryn J., Kelly Glazer Baron, Brandon Lu, Erik Naylor, Lisa Wolfe, and Phyllis C. Zee. “Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia.”Sleep Medicine 11, no. 9 (September 1, 2010): 934-40. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014.
Church, Tim. “Exercise in Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and Diabetes.”Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases 53, no. 6 (May 2011): 412-18. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2011.03.013.
Menshikova, E. V., V. B. Ritov, L. Fairfull, R. E. Ferrell, D. E. Kelley, and B. H. Goodpaster. “Effects of Exercise on Mitochondrial Content and Function in Aging Human Skeletal Muscle.”The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 61, no. 6 (September 01, 2006): 534-40. doi:10.1093/gerona/61.6.534.
Hadith – The Book of Destiny – Sahih Muslim – Sunnah.com – Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Accessed July 25, 2017. https://sunnah.com/urn/369830.
Now that summer has commenced, the temptations of different mouth watering foods are all around us. From the usual weekend family and friend gatherings, to the endless weddings and events we are invited too. Most of us even go the extent of not eating all day because the goal is to go with an empty stomach in order to fill it to its fullest capacity. At times, we even find ourselves so full that performing salah (prayer) becomes a struggle of its own, yet if tea and more desserts were laid out, we wouldn’t hesitate to reach for more.
Our tendencies of overeating are clearly heightened during the summer months. However, overeating has numerous negative effects on our body. First and for most, studies have shown that short term over eating not only results in short term weight gain, but even long term increase in weight (1). This means that individuals had difficulty reducing the weight since the time it was gained post overeating. Overeating can also have harmful effects on your metabolism due to a large influx of nutrients entering the body at once (2). This results in our metabolism to shut down as the excess nutrients are seen as threats to the body (2). Furthermore, an impaired metabolism can lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity (2). Digestive organs such as the kidney, stomach, and liver are also compromised with overeating due to the inability to digest all the food being ingested (3). Last but not least, overeating can also impact our mental health. Our body image and self esteem is largely an outcome of what we feel about our looks (4). Therefore, when we increase in weight, our confidence in ourselves reduces resulting in a negative self image.
When it comes to the religious perspective of overeating, it is too frowned upon. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) emphasized on eating less as it being an effective method in preventing sickness and disease (5). As narrated by Tirmidi and Ibn Majid the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said:
“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be; One-third for food, One-third for liquid, and One-third for breath.”
In Islam we are also advised to avoid extremes in all affairs of our lives and to maintain moderation, this includes the way we approach food (5).
Here are some useful tips to help you practice portion control and avoid overeating;
Never go to a social event hungry, have a light snack prior to the event preferably foods that are rich with either protein or fiber ex. Fruits, Vegetables with hummus dip, protein/fiber bar etc.
When serving yourself, start by filling half your plate with vegetables avoiding the ones that are drowning in oils, then moving on to the proteins (chicken, fish, beef) being a quarter of the plate, then carbs being the last quarter of the plate
Have a glass of water by your side throughout time of the gathering
Eat slowly to allow your food to properly digest and prevent you from overeating as you provide your body with sufficient time to signal you when you are full
Limit your options; some of us like to try a little bit of everything and before you know it your eating for a family, so try limit yourself to 2 to 3 side dishes
Use your hand as guide of how to portion your food ( Guide located on tools and resources page)
Hopefully with these tips we are able to practice moderation in our day to day eating habits. After all let us not forget the saying “A moment on the lips forever on the hips.” 😉
Author; Raya Haddass
Ernersson, Åsa, Fredrik H. Nystrom, and Torbjörn Lindström. “Long-term increase of fat mass after a four week intervention with fast food based hyper-alimentation and limitation of physical activity.”Nutrition & Metabolism7, no. 1 (August 25, 2010): 68. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-68.
Nakamura, Takahisa, Masato Furuhashi, Ping Li, Haiming Cao, Gurol Tuncman, Nahum Sonenberg, Cem Z. Gorgun, and Gökhan S. Hotamisligil. “Double-Stranded RNA-Dependent Protein Kinase Links Pathogen Sensing with Stress and Metabolic Homeostasis.”Cell 140, no. 3 (February 5, 2010): 338-48. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2010.01.001.
Alhamdulillah we were blessed to finish of the month Ramadhan followed by the Eid celebration. May Allah accept all of our fast and ibada, Ameen. As we move into the month of Shawaal we hope to continue the act of good deeds, one of which may be fasting.
Fasting is not only an act of good deed but also has proven to have countless health benefits. You may question this as some of us finished the month of Ramadhan going up a clothing size. But in this case the issue lies in the kinds of foods we choose to consume when we break our fast. Most often, these foods are rich in sugar and fats which lead weight gain. However, when fasting is done right, there is much more to benefit.
Firstly let’s briefly discuss the religious benefits of fasting. Fasting is a form of spiritual healing. This healing takes place through achieving self control by controlling our desires and urgency to act on anger(1). We also achieve this spiritual healing through means of prayer, dhikar, and increased recitation of the Holy Quran (1). Fasting allows us to place ourselves in the shoes of those whose fasting does not end by choice, as they go hungry for days. With this experience it opens our eyes and hearts towards giving to those in need.
Now let’s us understand the health benefits achieved from fasting. Fasting has proven to help lower blood sugar levels through reducing insulin resistance(2) . This results in a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. Through fasting we are also able to improve our overall heart health by improving our blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)(3). Oxidative stress has also proven to be reduced by fasting(4). You may be wonder well what is that? Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and developing chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, COPD, etc(4). Our brain also benefits from fasting as it increases the development of new nerve cells which in turn helps improve brain function (5). Last but not least, fasting can assist in weight loss as it reduced the amount of food you eat as well as boosts your metabolic rate (6).
Now that we have a clear understanding of the religious and health benefits of fasting, let us put this knowledge to action. The Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was to fast Thursdays and Mondays (1). This can also be seen as intermittent fasting in which we fast 2 days a week and five days of non fasting. It is essential that we have nutrient rich foods during the time that is allocated to eat. For example when waking up for suhur before the sun rises, we should be consuming foods that are high in fiber and protein as these foods provide the feeling of satiety (filling sensation)(7). An ideal meal could be;
1-2 cups of oatmeal served with fruits and nuts
1-2 eggs omelette loaded with vegetable such as broccoli, mushrooms, spinach etc served with 1 whole wheat toast
1 whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk
1 cup Vegetable chicken soup with 1 whole wheat toast
These are just several examples of some breakfast meals. Be sure to have already 2-3 cups of water prior to suhur ending as this will help keep you hydrated. Stay away from sodium rich foods as well as caffeinated drinks as this dehydrates the body. When time for iftar arises, break the fast with the sunnah of 3 dates and a glass of water (1). Once the Marghib prayer is completed you may then go into your meal. Here are some useful tips;
At least half your plate should be filled with vegetables, a quarter of the plate carbohydrates (1 cup), and a quarter protein (3-5 ounces about the size of a deck of cards
For the vegetable of choice, avoid over cooking in oils as this will simply increase the fat consumption and kill the valuable nutrients. Stick to baking, steaming, or simply having it raw
When choosing a carbohydrate, make sure it is high in fiber for example brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta etc.
When choosing a protein be sure to pick proteins that are lean and avoid cooking them in lots of fats.
Lastly we all like to finish of our meals with something sweet. This can consist of either a bowl of fruits or frozen yogurt. Just be sure to practice portion control when reaching for those sweet treats.
2. Barnosky, Adrienne R., Kristin K. Hoddy, Terry G. Unterman, and Krista A. Varady. “Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings.” Translational Research 164, no. 4 (October 2014): 302-11. doi:10.1016/j.trsl.2014.05.013.
3. Varady, K. A., S. Bhutani, E. C. Church, and M. C. Klempel. “Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 90, no. 5 (September 30, 2009): 1138-143. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28380.
4. Bont, R. De. “Endogenous DNA damage in humans: a review of quantitative data.” Mutagenesis 19, no. 3 (May 01, 2004): 169-85. doi:10.1093/mutage/geh025.
5. Lee, J., K. B. Seroogy, and M. P. Mattson. “Dietary restriction enhances neurogenesis and up-regulates neurotrophin expression in the hippocampus of adult mice.” Journal of Neurochemistry 81 (January 21, 2002): 57-59. doi:10.1046/j.1471-4159.81.s1.19_4.x.
6. Johnstone, A. “Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend?” International Journal of Obesity 39, no. 5 (December 26, 2014): 727-33. doi:10.1038/ijo.2014.214.
7. Halton, Thomas L., and Frank B. Hu. “The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 23, no. 5 (June 15, 2004): 373-85. doi:10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381.