Your Hair & Exercise: Can They Ever Be Friends?

    A woman wearing a scarf at the gymWhen it comes to Black women and exercise, one of the most asked questions is, “How can I get a good workout and not have a bad hair day?”

    At the end of a good workout you may find your roots are puffy and your style is gone.  What’s a girl to do? Should we sacrifice our health to preserve our hair style?

    Black Women: Sacrificing Fitness For The Sake Of Style?

    According to a recent study conducted by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C., 31% of the 103 African-American women surveyed admitted that they exercise less because it may harm their hairstyle.

    All of the women studied agreed that it is important to lead a healthy life, which includes exercise. Exercise is especially important in the African American community because we are more prone to diabetes, hypertension, and complications due to obesity, including heart disease. Though we face many health concerns that exercise will combat, African American women have a different deterrent from working out – their hair.

    Where The Problem Lies…

    Many women of color wear their hair straightened whether it’s chemically treated or thermally straightened (with a hot tool such as a flat iron). Black women are routinely spending more money on their hair care products and hair styling services than women of any other ethnicity.

    Understanding the financial investment in her hair helps explain why there is apprehension to exercise. It is not uncommon for a Black woman to go to the salon and spend up to $100 or more on her hair service. After spending money on their hair service, many women feel that it would be a waste their money to “sweat out” their hair style at the gym. Any woman who has naturally curly or coarse hair understands the difficulty of keeping their hair straightened, while working up a sweat.

    What’s Up With Sweat, Anyway?

    But hair or not, exercise is still crucial to a healthy body – the higher incidences of diseases and conditions that permeate the African American community, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, can often be prevented through regular exercise and improved weight management. These diseases don’t exactly care how beautiful your hair is.

    As annoying as the idea of sweating out a perfectly good hair style may be, secretions from your sweat glands are one of three ways by which we eliminate toxins from our body.  The body has about two million sweat glands.

    Perspiration causes the hair to become wet and revert back to its naturally curly and/or coarse state. Sweat, which is comprised of water and salts (sodium and potassium), can make the hair appear dry and dull. In order for her to wear her hair in her preferred straightened hair style she would have to repeat the straightening process. That process generally includes shampooing, conditioning, roller setting or blow drying, and flat ironing the hair. This process can take hours. Contrary to popular belief, curly and coarse hair is fragile, the weakest area are nestled between the curves, the more twists and curves the more fragile. The hair cannot be shampooed and thermally styled numerous times per week.

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