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Fasting students kept on track with PE lessons ahead of Ramadan

PE lessons designed for students who are fasting are being incorporated across thousands of schools, the author of the guidance has told Sky News.

The advice includes practical adaptations for physical activities such as lower-intensity training and focusing on technique.

Dr Irfan Khawaja, who developed the guidance at Birmingham City University, told Sky News it helps keep students choosing to fast on track with PE lessons.

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Dr Irfan Khawaja

“When you’re fasting, you’re nil by mouth from dawn until sunset, that’s a long period of time. However, if you choose the types of activities that you do carefully, then there’s no reason why you cannot sustain a healthy and active lifestyle,” he told Sky News.

“That might mean that you lower the intensity activities, it might mean that you lower the number of reps that you do when you go to the gym or you do less cardio, whatever that might be.”

Dr Khawaja says the guidance is already set to be used in at least 2,500 schools and is especially useful to Muslim students fasting during Ramadan.

In 2024, Ramadan is due to start from 11 March and could last until 8 April. It is a period of spiritual reflection, self-improvement and heightened devotion and worship.

Fasting, where no food or drink can be consumed, begins at dawn and ends at sunset and is obligatory for all adult Muslims who are not acutely ill.

Ramadan falls on different dates every year and is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar.

Read more: Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

PE lesson at school

“From an Islamic perspective you are encouraged to continue to lead a normal and healthy lifestyle throughout Ramadan and fasting itself is part of wider health regimes anyway,” Dr Khawaja told Sky News.

Hall Green Secondary School in Birmingham has incorporated the guidance ahead of Ramadan starting.

Emma Smith, PE teacher at Hall Green Secondary School in Birmingham
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PE teacher Emma Smith

PE teacher Emma Smith says it helps keep students safe.

She said it means “their parents are going to be sending their children in even if they’re fasting, knowing that our department is going to do something to support them, to make sure they can still access the full part of the curriculum without needing to worry they’re going to work too hard”.

Fasting, and some forms of intermittent fasting, is a popular health and fitness trend even outside of Ramadan.

The Muslim Council of Britain has called on the government to roll Dr Khawaja’s guidance out nationally to set a standard across all schools.