The challenges of exercising for some Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women

Among the more obvious obstacles to fitness — time, money, willpower, injuries — the demands of faith don’t often come to mind. But for the devout, particularly women, issues such as modesty and traditional dress can limit an exercise program if options such as the Nur Center are not available.

Before the community center opened on Carlin Springs Road in 2010, Muna Bur’s exercise regimen was largely limited to walking. That didn’t work so well in winter, she said, and the abayah — a tunic that reaches her knees — made it difficult any time of year. “It’s not comfortable to walk with it,” she said on a recent evening as she waited for the Zumba class to start.

For Diana Kurcfeld, an Orthodox Jew from Olney, maintaining a running program requires some adjustments many women wouldn’t consider. Even on the hottest summer days, she wears a skirt below the knee and sleeves past her elbows, modest garb that is a requirement of her faith when men are present. As a married woman, she must always cover her hair; she wears a scarf or a baseball cap, sometimes both.

“You get used to it,” she said. She has searched far and wide for comfortable running skirts, even importing some from Israel.