Working out religiously: How Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women must find rare female-only classes or face the gym in heavy 'appropriate' attire
15:22 GMT, 19 June 2012
As if working didn't require enough effort, for Muslims and Orthodox Jews, the biggest challenge is finding a place to swim, run or do yoga without the burden of having to cover up in front of men.
Facilities that offer private classes for women only where observant followers of either religion can exercise without the worry of 'immodesty', are few and far between.
And since the alternatives are forbidden, women have in the past been forced to either sweat it out under the hijabs and customary Orthodox clothing, or forego exercise altogether.
Cover-up: Muslim woman (left) must wear a hijab if there are any men in sight while Aqua Modesta's swimsuit allows Jewish women to swim without worry
Imam al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, of
the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, is an advocate of fitness
who believes health and modesty are not mutually exclusive.
He told WNYC:
'Health and fitness are values of the Islamic faith. We have a
traditional saying, that's attributed to the prophet Muhammad, Peace Be
Upon Him, and it's a well-known saying, which is “Give your body its
But he added: 'Not everyone throughout the world believes that being physically fit requires a person to be half-naked.'
and more, community centres are beginning to acknowledge the issue and
the importance of women's right to exercise by providing single-sex
classes while others are finding the solution with workout videos in the
basement of their own homes.
The Muslim American Society for one is re-opening a gym in New York City with separate hours for men and women.
these sessions female members will be allowed to exercise without
feeling the stare men's eyes upon them and won't have to be subjected to
the racy and sexually explicit lyrics of chart music that blasts from
most gym's speaker systems.
Modest crunches: Active Modesta fitness gear was designed so that religious Jewish women could do sports without compromising faith
As Aber Kawas, a youth coordinator for
the Muslim American Society put it to WNYC radio: 'You won't be hearing
any Rihanna in there, but you may hear some beats.'
Within Orthodox Jewish circles, a variety of community centres are offering male-free classes as well as all-female swimming pools.
For those who opt for the waters of the mixed-sex pools, 'swim dresses' provide a solution to sitting in soaking wet clothes: the swim-dress.
Regina Tessone's Aqua Modesta line of swimwear includes all-in-ones, and multi-piece sets made from swimsuit fabric but designed to look exactly the same as the traditional Orthodox female garb and cover the appropriate parts of the female form.
'It completely clings to you,' explained an Orthodox triathlon competitor of the innovative design. 'You have the range of motion that you need. And then when you come out it's just a dress, so you're completely covered the entire time.'
Women only: Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women struggle to find places to exercise where they don't have to worry about being 'immodest'