What comes to you of good is from Allah, but what comes to you of evil, is from yourself. [Surat Al-Nisaa’, 4:79]
For some reasons, women’s health is a topic rarely talked about in our communities. Sure, we talk about menstruation and pregnancy…
However, we do not hear a lot of discussions concerning general health issues, nutrition and, specifically, exercise; because of this, we are writing this article to have the opportunity to talk in-depth about this important issue.
I started thinking about this issue more than two years ago – and through a personal health crisis, I have come to truly appreciate the gift of good health.
My publisher at Aljumuah Magazine spoke with me during my most trying time, he reminded me of an old Arabic saying:
Health is an invisible crown that no one sees but those that are ill.
That is so completely true.
Many of us do not appreciate our health until we are faced with losing it as we know it forever.
So, what message do we get as Muslim women about our daily living?
Generally, we are told to stay inside our homes – and while our homes are the best and safest place to be without a doubt – many sisters who live in apartment buildings, and even those that live in duplexes or houses simply do not have a place to exercise.
If you think in terms of our society what are these messages teaching our young girls? If we do not talk plainly and openly about healthy living, and practice what we preach on the subject we are leaving many young girls to fall victim to eating disorders, such as over-eating, anorexia and bulimia. If you think no one you know has an eating disorder, look again…it’s more common than you think.
We need to send the right message about women’s health to our daughters, that eating right and exercising is also a part of a Muslim woman’s lifestyle?
We need to also lead by example and start stepping up to the plate. There are many forms of exercise that will fit into our Islamic lifestyle.
Taking 10,000 a Day
There is solid medical evidence to prove that walking 10,000 steps a day can lead to significant health benefits. If done each day, it can not only make you feel better and more energized in everything you do, but it can also reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and depression.
The best way to measure your steps is by getting a pedometer. Pedometers are easy to use, easy to find and inexpensive. Consumer Reports citied the most reliable pedometer was the Freestyle.
If you do not have a pedometer available, you can follow this guide to measure your steps until you can get your hands on one:
30 minutes moderately paced walking = approximately 4,000 steps
45 minutes moderately paced walking = approximately 7,500 steps
60 minutes *briskly paced walking = approximately 10,000 steps. (*Note: briskly, means fast – not casual walking).
You will find that the average person walks about 900-3,000 steps per day during daily activities, so you will really have to find ways to get those extra steps in.
However, there are many ways you can make your goal.
You can walk on a treadmill or park far away from the entrance of the grocery store – listening to lectures on a CD or cassette helps pass the time.
www.americanheart.org, the website for the American Heart Association, is the place to go for great information to keep you on track with a healthy lifestyle.
Search their website for lots of freebies like hearthealthy cookbooks and programs such as “Choose to Move”, which helps you learn more ways to fit a
healthy lifestyle into your daily routine.
JustMove.org is a valuable resource tool (created by the American Heart Association) chock full of useful information about fitness.
You can also start your own exercise diary at www.justmove.org or share your exercise ups and down with others at: www.eblog.com.
Better yet, to help encourage you and your fellow sisters, start a daily walking group – if daily is too hard; make it three times a week.
Go to the malls or even super stores if you must (walk up and down each and every aisle) – doing this will get you about 4,000 steps or so. Just remember you are there to walk, not to buy! I know the marketplace is not the best place to be, but it is safer than walking on busy roads and will protect you from the weather.
Not only will walking get you into shape and energized, if you are ever planning on going to Hajj or Umrah, it is the best training to prepare ahead of time.
The Prophet was well-known for his habit of brisk walking as shown in the following hadiths.
Abu Hurairah said,
I did not see anyone more handsome as the Prophet. It was as if the brightness of the sun had shone from his auspicious face. I did not see anyone walk faster than him, as if the earth folded for him. A few moments ago, he would be here, and then there. We found it difficult to keep pace when we walked with him, and he walked at his normal pace. (Bukhari)
Ready, Set, Run!
On the authority of ‘Aisha who reported that she was once on a trip with the Prophet while she was still a young girl. “I had not acquired excess body flesh, nor had my body become large. The Prophet said to his Companions “Move on ahead.” When they had gone on ahead of us, he said “Come, and I will race you.” Then, I beat him in a foot race. Later on, I again was on a trip with him and he said again to his Companions “Go on ahead” And then he said to me “Come, and I will race you.” I had completely forgotten the previous incident. Moreover, I had become heavier. I said to him: “How can I race you when I am in this condition?” He said, “You will race me! ” So I raced him, and he won the race. Then he began laughing and said, “This is for that victory.” (Abu-Dawud)
Make a Splash
Swimming helps you lose weight and keep in shape, burning more calories than almost any other exercise. Get a group together and rent a private pool a few times a month for a change of pace and bring the kids, believe me, it will be a hit!
In the second portion of this article, we will discuss nutrition, emotional eating, exercising with modesty and your right, as a Muslim woman, to exercise.
To be continued…
*Note: It is always important to consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program to find out what programs are best for you