Walking with Purpose: Taking Good Health in Your Stride

Take Care of Your Body – A Gift from God

Based on  the session by Belal Hafeez & Nazima Qureshi

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our health has suddenly been threatened by a virus that is outwith our control. We take our health for granted because most of us are born with good health. It is only when our health begins to deteriorate that we scramble to take better care of our health, but sometimes, it is too late. In this video, Ustadha Shireen Ahmed, Managing Director of SeekersGuidance Canada, had invited Belal Hafeez and Nazima Qureshi to give a short but beneficial talk on the benefits of exercise before bringing the participants on a walk at the Saigon Park trail.


About Saigon Park

Saigon Park is the newest park in Mississauga, Canada which opened in Spring 2020. It provides its residents and workers of businesses surrounding the park a space to exercise and improve their physical health. There is a man-made lake in the middle of the park which acts as a stormwater management facility for the city. The park takes overflowed water from the city and channels it to the lake, hence causing the water level of the lake to be very unpredictable. The reason they named the park after the country Saigon is to recognize the Vietnamese-Canadian community who found refuge in Canada when they were forced to leave Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in April 1975. The structural artwork that they were sitting at in the video is called “The Year of Weather”. The 4 panels symbolize the 4 seasons and the symbols on the 4 panels are a combination of traditional hieroglyphs that are weather-related and modern weather symbols. The park also features a 1km trail that goes around the lake, which has various stations with various exercising equipment and lookout points.

 

Fitness and Nutrition a Part of Our Deen

Fitness and nutrition have always been a part of our Deen, they were never a separate issue. When it comes to fitness and nutrition, we should take a holistic approach towards it such as asking ourselves how we can be healthier, how we can increase our energies throughout the day or how we can make sure that our hearts are functioning better. There is a blessing in the current COVID-19 situation whereby it gives us the opportunity to focus our time at home, enabling us to work out and exercise with our families. Taking up dietary restrictions does not substitute our daily nutritional needs, and may not provide long-term health benefits. Fitness and nutrition should not be about turning our lives upside down, but fitting them into our lives.

 

Benefits of Walking and How to Walk

Walking is probably the most underrated exercise. Many of us tend to partake in tough and rigorous activities when it comes to exercising. However, little did many of us know, even going only for a 10-minute walk can do wonders to our health. Walking relieves bodily issues such as lower back pains. Lower back pain indicates a lack of core strength and mobility in your hips. It indicates that your lower back muscles surrounding your spine are not doing their job, which is to brace for impacts from movements. Walking is scientifically proven to be able to take the pressure off your back and it forces your muscles to embrace movement. The correct way of walking is for it to be fast-paced with your hips straight and stable. Our core muscles should be slightly braced, enough for us to feel our abdominal. Our postures should be kept in place and not slouched. When people complain of lower back pains after walking for a while, most of the time it is due to walking with bad posture.

 

Nutrition

Boosting our immunity is important especially during this pandemic. We may think that boosting immunity prevents us from falling sick but that is a misconception. Boosting immunity is a long term benefit. When we fall sick, how long it takes for a healthy person to recover will be a lot different from an unhealthy person. Eating healthy over a general pattern of time helps us recover faster from illness and have better symptoms overall. Eating healthy does not mean only eating one healthy food. It is a pattern of how we are eating. The number of times we eat daily are opportunities for our nutritional intake to either work for us or against us. We can still have desserts and junk foods once in a while – we should have balance. For example, in 1 week, 80% of our food should be nutritious which should be fueling for us. Our eating pattern should be looked at as a long-term pattern, not daily. 

 

Nazima Qureshi has given us 3 tips from which we will see a significant difference if we practice them for a few weeks, months, or even years. The 3 tips are:

1) Mind Our Hydration Levels

We should always ensure that we drink enough water when we are both sick and healthy. We should also try to replace sugary drinks with water. When we drink coffee or tea, be mindful of how much sugar we put in it because it is considered as a sugary drink the moment we add sugar in it. When drinking canned drinks, be sure to check the sugar level in them. Sugar content in canned drinks are usually measured in grams. A simple calculation that can help us with measuring our sugar intake is: 4g = 1 teaspoon of sugar. A canned drink typically has 30g of sugar on average. That would mean we are consuming 7½ teaspoons of sugar with just one canned drink. Our sugary drinks are comparable to our desserts hence water should replace them whenever possible to keep ourselves properly hydrated.

 

2) Eat Your Vegetables

There is no going around eating vegetables. It is a must to eat vegetables to keep ourselves healthy. If we do not prefer vegetables – we are not giving them a chance. There is a wide variety of vegetables available – we just have to find the ones that we like. Explore the vegetables that you enjoy eating. Vegetables should take up half a plate for at least one meal daily. However, vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and peas, are processed in our bodies as carbohydrates. The number of carbohydrates that we eat in a meal should be the amount that fits on the corner of a plate. 

 

3) Incorporating Healthy as a Lifestyle, Not a Restriction

Do not make healthy eating a miserable thing. Think of it as “What are we going to add?” instead of “What are we going to take away?”. If we have children, get them involved in the preparation of food. Show them where the vegetables are coming from. This way, they are more likely to eat their vegetables. Do not feel disappointed if we fall sick as you will notice that we recover a lot faster than when we did not take care of our health. We should always pair nutrition and fitness together. If we are going to have ice-cream after an exercise walk, it defeats the whole purpose. Some of us resort to emotional eating whenever we are bored or feel stressed. As Muslims, try channeling that urge towards other avenues such as dzikir, having halaqah with our families, or even physical activities. Engaging ourselves in such avenues is much more beneficial and we will mentally feel a lot better. We should also try making healthy living more enjoyable as a family. We can schedule in treat days like having pizza nights on a certain day of the week. 

 

Fitness and Nutrition in The Islamic Perspective

Our bodies are a trust upon us (amanah). We should always make it a priority to take care of our bodies. As mentioned above, we tend to resort to actions which we should not be doing whenever we are under a lot of stress such as binge eating or being short-tempered with others. Coaches and teachers generally recommend us to go for a walk whenever things are not going well in the house. Take advantage of the parks and spaces made available for us. Go for a walk and be keenly aware that every form of life is making dzikir to Allah Most High. Recognize the overwhelming feeling when we realize that the leaves, trees, and other forms of life are constantly in a state of remembrance of Allah Most High. It also acts as a reminder for us to always try to constantly be in a state of remembrance of Allah Most High. When we pass away, all of the ground that we walked on and all of the trees that we walked by while in a state of remembrance will testify it for us on The Day of Judgement. Apart from that, there is a certain tranquility that we feel when we walk in nature while in the state of remembrance of Allah Most High. As we draw ourselves closer to Him, we will feel our stress level go down in a more meaningful and natural way than resorting to non-beneficial activities such as binge eating. 

As we exercise and work out, be reminded to do it with the right intention of taking care of our bodies, instead of doing it just to look good in front of others. With the right intention, we gain a lot of rewards, tawfiq, and we will also find that we are able to better sustain our physical level of activity. Allah’s Messenger (blessings and peace upon him) had called us to have good physical health by saying “The strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than the weak believer, but there is goodness in both of them” – narrated by Abu Huraira. With the intention of being strong for the sake of Allah Most High, it helps us to keep taking care of our bodies as a steady habit.

Lastly, exercising creates good opportunities for families to spend time together. Especially in this age and time where many families are broken due to extensive usage of devices and minimal time spent with each other. 

 

About Belal Hafeez and Nazima Qureshi

Belal Hafeez is a personal trainer and the founder of ‘Stronger With Belal’, an initiative to help Muslim men become stronger and to lose weight. Nazima Qureshi is Belal Hafeez’s wife. She is an accomplished nutritionist and the author of “Eat Better, Feel Better, Live Better”. As a couple, both of them published a book called “The Healthy Ramadan Guide” and they both run a business called The Healthy Muslims. Their main goal is to try to get Muslims to be healthier by losing weight and becoming stronger and turning health & fitness into a lifestyle.