This post is for all ladies, but specifically ladies who’s hair… well… let’s just say those who’s hair is high maintenance.
Women of African American descent are specifically addressed, because this seems to be a bigger factor in getting them in the gym than their white counterparts. Black hair & sweat… well, they don’t mix.
I can attest to this. It’s also the reason some hate going swimming in the summer. Many a summer’s day in my teens was spent with this mantra: “I’d rather be hot than mess up my hair”.
I’ve never been good at keeping up my hair, and honestly, with all the working out I do, I’m lucky if I can straighten it into something respectable once a week (half is shaved anyways, so I only have half a head to worry about). But my love for fitness FAR exceeds my love for hairdos, and if I loved my hair more I probably would have to invest more time into maintaining both it AND my fit lifestyle.
Last week, the U.S. surgeon general stopped by the spectacle known as the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show to discuss hair & health, and encourage young hair fashionistas to get their beautiful booties in the gym.
Read the interview she gave below…
TANGENT: YOU NEED TO SEE THE PICS FROM THIS HAIRSHOW! Seriously, it’s like the Lion King meets an art gallery. I’ve never seen anything like it. Read the article first, then check out the hair. To be fair, I wouldn’t wanna work out with that hair either. Click here.
What better place to talk about health than at a hair show that draws 60,000 stylists? Dr. Regina Benjamin discussed the widely held belief that black women don’t exercise because it might ruin their hairstyle. It turns out Benjamin has struggled with this issue too.
The interview has been edited for brevity.
What brings you to the hair show?
Actually it’s the perfect event. My priority as surgeon general is prevention. Everything that we do is to try to build a healthy and fit nation.
What we find when talking particularly with African American women - I’m later finding this with other women, too - was that when we talk about exercise, we hear, “I don’t want to sweat my hair back or I don’t want to mess up my hairstyle. It cost me too much to get my hair done this week.”
When United Healthcare came and talked about this last year, it was a successful at the Bronner Bros. Hair Show with 60,000 hairdressers. What better audience would be to help us find exercise-friendly hairstyles?
This is trying to encourage women to continue to exercise and be healthy and give them a way to do that without messing up their hair.
Is there evidence that this hair issue is really why some women don’t exercise or is this anecdotal?
There are some studies there.
I’ve talked to a number of women and that’s the first thing they’ll tell you. I know that was an issue for me. I didn’t want to mess up my hair. You sweat a lot in your hair and it changes your hairstyle completely.
Unlike other races and ethnic groups, you can’t wash your hair and go out. African Americans, most of us can’t do that. We need to spend a little bit more time on our hair. We need something that cuts down on getting hair back in a nice hairstyle. So I don’t think it’s something anecdotal. I’ve talked to women a lot because I’m doing this conference and it’s a real issue.
Benjamin’s office cited two studies that examined why fewer than 30% of minority women in the United States get the recommended level of exercise. The reasons were lack of time followed by “economic constraints, major life changes or traumas, safety issues, weather and environment, the hassle of personal care such as showering and keeping hair looking good,” according to the American Journal of Public Health.
Has this hair issue become an easy crutch for not exercising?
It’s an easy excuse, but it’s a real excuse.
If you go out and spend $40-50 to get your hair done, you don’t want to go out and get it all sweaty and wet that afternoon before you got to show it off.
Other ethnic groups would come up and say the same thing. I’ve heard it from Hispanics. I’ve heard it from a couple of my older white patients that I have at home. They’re saying I get my hair done every weekend- I don’t want to be exercising after I get my hair done.
I don’t think it’s limited to African American women.
How do you deal with this issue?
I exercise at night. That’s my solution: Exercise at night so when I finish, I can be at home. I’m a night person anyway.