If one only has the strength or will-power or interest to do one thing, which should it be: Pray (e.g., Shacharis, Mincha or Maariv) or exercise?

For instance, say one comes home from work late one night and only feels up to doing one thing- praying Maariv or exercising. Regular exercise appears to be obligatory (on some level- see Rambam Hilchos Deios Chapter 4). And yet I'd be surprised if any Rabbi told me to choose exercise over prayer (even by Maariv which is a "reshus").

And please don't respond that one should do both- that wasn't the question.

  • 3
    Even exercise was obligatory, it could always be done the next day. But since it is not brought down in halacha, I don't think the question really stands. Plus there is a rule of "do first what is more frequent"
    – mbloch
    Dec 26, 2022 at 4:20
  • 3
    Pray that you find time to exercise :) Dec 26, 2022 at 6:08
  • 2
    Note that not all exercise is created equal; there could be a greater medical exigency to exercise in some cases than in others. I'd think that in some cases, the medical need to exercise could be urgent enough and serious enough to outweigh other considerations.
    – Fred
    Dec 26, 2022 at 17:39
  • Perhaps there are opinions that would allow part of it on a treadmill baisdovyosef.com/1288-daven-on-the-run
    – Damila
    Dec 26, 2022 at 23:18
  • @Damila Even if one may technically daven on the treadmill, that really isn't showing kavod to Hashem. You are literally getting up and speaking to Hashem, our G-d, melech malchei hamelachim, and you'll do it while running on a treadmill?
    – Kovy Jacob
    Dec 27, 2022 at 5:28

1 Answer 1


Even if you have to get exercise lehalacha, 2 things:

  1. When the Rambam says you need to get excercise he doesn't mean lifting weights, getting on your Peleton, or doing push-ups - he means getting some exercise. Maybe walk around the block a few times and listen to a shiur or think in learning, but I can assure you the Rambam didn't 'work out'. After a day of walking around its quite possible you have enough exercise.

  2. Assuming that you have to exercise daily according to halacha, and you have not yet gotten enough, Ma'ariv, which is a chiyuv you have right then (within a small time bracket) would presumably come before exercising, a chiyuv which you would hypothetically have for the entire day.

  • To your first point, check out Moreh Nevuchim 3:25 where Rambam refers to ball-playing and wrestling as intelligent acts when done for health. Also, see Pirkei Moshe/Maimonides Medical Aphorisms 18 where he discusses various forms of exercise, etc. Also, see Hanhagas Habrius/Regimen of Health 1:3 where he discusses this in detail. I do not see how you know for certain that the Rambam didn't do what we call exercise (aside from use of a Pelaton) and on the contrary, these sources indicate that he likely did. I think Rambam would find average ppls walking (e.g. at home) insufficient.
    – Yehuda
    Dec 27, 2022 at 13:44
  • And a second reply to your first point: you seem to concede that Rambam may have been referring to "walking around the block a few times" or the like. If so, my question stands.
    – Yehuda
    Dec 27, 2022 at 13:46
  • In reponse to your second point: I know we apply this halachic reasoning to mitzvos such as Musaf and Mincha. But that is with respect to precedence, not necessarily ultimate priority. Analogously, what if someone were to ask their Rabbi, if I had to pick one, should I daven Mincha or Musaf? Would the answer be the same?
    – Yehuda
    Dec 27, 2022 at 13:49
  • @Yehuda Regarding my first point, that's very interesting, thanks for pointing that out. I know for pretty much certain that the Rambam didn't, as one would generally look at those forms of exercise as unbefitting for such a person. And I disagree that the Rambam would say walking is insufficient - when the Rambam talked about exercising he wasn't talking about to get ripped and build muscle, it was to maintain health.
    – Kovy Jacob
    Dec 28, 2022 at 7:00
  • @Yehuda Don't understand "And a second reply to your first point: you seem to concede that Rambam may have been referring to "walking around the block a few times" or the like. If so, my question stands".
    – Kovy Jacob
    Dec 28, 2022 at 7:00

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