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Is one allowed to do exercises on Shabbos?

Are any types allowed? Some examples of different types:

  • Lifting weights or heavy items
  • Jumping jacks
  • Taking a walk (long, but without Techum issues)
  • Doing sit-ups or push-ups
  • Stretching
  • Climbing steps

In all cases, assume that the user is doing such actions with intent to lose weight.

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The Rabbis forbade taking medicine on Shabbos (barring the person being sick), because they were worried one might come to grind medicine on Shabbos (think mortar and pestle), and grinding on Shabbos is a Biblical Prohibition (Tochen).

In the time of the Gemara (and perhaps now, although I'm not aware of it) people would take medicine, in order to sweat for health reasons. The Rabbi's therefore forbade any activity that would cause one to sweat (i.e. exercise) because they were worried that if they permitted exercise, it would lead to people grinding medicine in order to sweat.

See here for more details, and especially take note of footnote 3:

If the purpose of the exercise is to work up an appetite, it is questionable; see Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 301:9. If the purpose of the exercise is to lose weight for health reasons, it may be prohibited, since weight loss can be (partly) accomplished by taking pills. If the exercise is for pure enjoyment, it may be permitted according to the basic halachah, although it may be considered uvda d'chol, "a weekday activity." A rabbi should be consulted.

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From what I recall, doing something for medicinal or aerobic reasons generally falls under the category of refuah, which is a rabbinic prohibition which itself falls under the category of tochein.

However, there is an important distinction to be made. There are two types of these activities:

  1. Things that are clearly only for the medicinal, dietary, or aerobic purposes implied. This would include push-ups, lifting weights, taking certain pills, and other things that would not otherwise be done without the intention of losing weight, body building, or improving health.
  2. Things that may be done with other intentions in mind. For example, taking a long walk could be done for aerobic purposes, but also because one enjoys taking a walk. Drinking tea with honey is common to help a sore throat, but could be done also just because one enjoys the taste.

The first category of activities is what is prohibited under the ban of refuah. The second category is permitted even if it is being done with the intention of bettering one's health. That is, even if one is taking the long walk with the intention of getting exercise, since walks are not exclusively taken for this purpose, it is permitted.

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    A source would be appropriate to prove that exercise is refuah despite the fact that he is not sick and the exercise is merely preventative.
    – YDK
    Jun 22 '11 at 3:20
  • @YDK, Good point. I will find the source.
    – jake
    Jun 22 '11 at 5:35
  • @jake - Still looking for the source? May 10 '13 at 2:39
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    @AdamMosheh, No, I've long forgotten about this. Although this is probably based on what I remembered reading in R' Ribiat's "39 Melachos", I don't have it with me currently. I will look at it when I have the chance. For now, though, see Shulchan Aruch (OC 301:1-2) and Mishna Berurah there (301:7).
    – jake
    May 10 '13 at 17:05
  • how do you know those activities in the first category you have made are prohibited b/c they improve your health?
    – Dude
    Nov 13 '19 at 18:40
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R Yehoshua Neuwirth in Shemirath Shabbath Kehilchata (vol. 1, p. 158) is strict

One should not, as a rule, perform physical exercises on Shabbat or Yom Tov, whether with or without the use of an instrument designed for strengthening muscles, such as a chest-expander. Likewise, one should not engage in occupational therapy.

He then makes exemptions for exercises required for one's health (and recommends to ask a Rav) or for simple, light exercises with one's hand.

R Ari Enkin here writes "Exercising or any other bodily exertion is generally forbidden on Shabbat" and further quotes the Mishna Brura 301.7

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  • The central idea in almost all these answers is that the prohibition is contingent upon the individual being healthy. But in this generation and for many generations prior, the assumption is that most people are not well. That generally people are considered to be in a state of illness. This is also why fasting is discouraged today. And in that context, following the advice of Rav Neuwirth to consult your local Orthodox Rav is the best course of action. Feb 7 at 15:40
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It seems there is a lack of clarity on the clear aproach to this question.

Let's begin with the Mishna. Shabbat 22:6, סכין וממשמשין בבני מעים אבל לא מתעלמין, you can administer oils to the body and spread it on the stomach area (for the healing purpose of pain in the abdominal area) but you cannot provide pressure.

This is understood by Rashi as to mean speading these oils with pressure.

This is understood by the Rambam in his perush mishnayos as using עמל on the body, and in Mishna Torah 21;28, he elaborated and rules, זֶה שֶׁדּוֹרְסִים עַל גּוּפוֹ בְּכֹחַ עַד שֶׁיִּיגַע וְיָזִיעַ Which means more of an exercise definition, of Trampaling (similiar to an animal that is דורס) for the purpose of healing to a point of sweat.

We see that, as long as there is no sweat then it is not an issur from the Mishna, that being said walking is permitted even if it does bring sweat (I will not bring a source becuase it is logical). But Jogging is not permitted as it bring sweat similiar to a later point in the mishna קורדימא which is place to go to sweat. Can a person exersise if it is clear that no sweat will come about. (which means sweat from the body, not a liquid, like if someone Jogs in the winter)?

Like Rashi that even a simple hard rub forsure not. Like the Rambam only if it brings to sweat, altough who is to know if a simple stretch might break a sweat. And we are not talking about drench either because the Mishna which the Ramban made his ruling was talking about rubbing the stomach which will lead to sweat, so even a small amount is assur.

This is two directions beside the abvious uvda dechol.

Interesting clarity from Rabbienu Channanel on 147b in Shabbat, says that מתעלמין is פושטין ומקפלין זרועותיהם לפניהן ולאחריהן וכן רגליהן ע״ג ירכותיהן ומתחממין ומזיעין והוא כמין מעשה רפואה ואסור. וכן אסור לעמוד בשבת בקרקעיתה של דיומסת מפני שמעמלת ומרפאה, Spreading and folding arm backwards and forwards as well as legs on thighs and becoming heated and sweated and this is an act of refuah and prohibited.

As a note: Let us not assume the only reason Refuah is prohibited is the grinding of spices. We don't know the full scope understanding of our Rabbis.

The three main categories of Exercise is Cardio, Stretch and Muscle training. You can't accomplish Cardio and Muscle training without sweat (see earlier for definition) and Stretch is mentioned clearly by Rabbienu Chananel although with the result of sweat.

I would say from the Rambam and Rabienu Chananel of above that ikkar din, stretch with no possibility of sweat (as you can't do an action if its a ספק issur) would be permitted as long as it is not similar to the way you do it on the weekday as the Gemarah on 147b states clearly סכין וממשמשין בבני מעיים בשבת ובלבד שלא יעשה כדרך שהוא עושה בחול.

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Chacham Ben Tzion Abba Shaul 2:page.258:12 held that working out to break a sweat is prohibited . However ,if one wants to work out without the intention of sweating then it is permmited. He also permits one to run if one doesn't have in mind to sweat. I don't beleive this is an accepted opinion by many,but he rules based off the Shulchan Aruch 328:42.

Text:

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Footnote:

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  • why does sweating cause an exercise to be prohibited? The point of exercise though isn't to cause one to sweat but sweating is a natural response to vigorous activity
    – Dude
    Nov 13 '19 at 18:42

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