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.

Ready To Get Your Workout On? Try These Style Savers!

• Straight. For straightened hair, try brushing your hair into a firm ponytail. Make sure to use an elastic holder covered in cloth and a holder without a metal clasp to avoid ripping your hair. Place a sweat band at your hairline, this not only helps to keep sweat out of your eyes, it will keep your edges in place. Once the hair is in a ponytail twist it and secure it with a hairpin. This will allow the hair to retain body and bounce in your post workout hair style.

• Curled. If your hair has been curled with a hot curlers or roller set, try pin curls. This is done by taking large sections of the hair, combing each section into one large curl, twisting the curl down onto the scalp and securing the curl with a bobby pin or metal two prong metal clip. Six to ten large pin curls should suffice. After your hair has dried, finger style your hair into place. This preserves your curls and keeps the hair full of body and volume.

• Hitting the Pool? If you are taking part in water sports, wrap your hair around your head in a circular motion using metal duckbill clips to hold the hair in place if necessary. Cover your hair with a satin or silk scarf. Finally, cover the scarf with a latex or silicone swim cap.

• Avoid Humidity Disasters. One last issue that affects those of us with thick and/or curly hair: the dreaded humidity hair. If you throw your hair up in a ponytail for a run in drizzly weather, you are likely to return home with a bird’s nest protruding from the back of your head. If your hair is long enough, braiding the ponytail minimizes the frizz. Or wrap a second band around the bottom of your ponytail.

Please Don’t Avoid Exercise Because Of Your Hair

There is no question; exercise is a win-win for your life. It may take a little planning but it can be done. It is actually good for your hair, exercise along with a healthy hair diet will ensure that there is proper blood flow to your scalp and will help promote hair growth.

By Jacqueline Tarrant, BDO Contributing Writer

Jacqueline Tarrant is a beauty expert, consultant, columnist, founder & CEO of Style Infinity Products & The Hair Trauma Center in downtown Chicago. Jacqueline Tarrant has pioneered effective methods to help men & women re-grow hair with her multi-layered approach to hair loss, known as Quadra-Follicle Stimulation. Jacqueline’s expertise on hair care and hair health is expressed monthly in national columns that reach millions through various publications.

With numerous Style & Beauty appearances nationwide on Good Morning America, NBC, CBS, & the Fox Network; Jacqueline’s credits also extend throughout print in such publications as Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Essence & the Wall Street Journal to name a few.

Her reputation as a renowned Educator, Trainer and Platform Artist has taken her throughout Canada, Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

Primarily through her anchor salon on the East coast & her latest location Downtown Chicago, The Hair Trauma Center, Jacqueline has the unique advantage of staying in tune with the pulse of today’s cutting edge hair care and beauty trends. Jacqueline shares her hair and beauty tips through print as a monthly columnist for Sophisticate of Black Hair Magazine with a reach of over 1 million monthly readers monthly.