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Don’t Want to “Sweat Out” Your Hair?

Each day many African-American women have to make the tough choice between working out and maintaining their hair style. If you fall into this category, then a new report by AARP may change your mind.

Recently, AARP conducted research among African-American women age 45+ and African American hair stylists, regarding African-American women’s hair issues as a barrier to engaging in regular physical activity. The results were simple – after spending valuable time and money to get their hair done, African-American women are not trying to “sweat it out”, or get their hair wet by working out. However, the research showed also, that there are solutions to overcoming this particular barrier to good health. There are several hairstyles that are conducive to working out. “African American women can take care of their bodies like they take care of their hair.”

The African-American women who were surveyed said that managing time to do their hair and having time to work out is a critical factor in making a commitment to exercise or participating in any physical activity on a regular basis. These women are forced to schedule their exercise around the times they have hair appointments which usually occur every two weeks. They exercise more a few days before their appointment, but during the first few days, or even the first week after going to the salon they will not exercise or participate in any physical activity whatsoever.

Hair stylists too, indicated that the concerns of their customers most often are damaged hair and the challenges of how to keep hair healthy. Damaged hair due to breakage, dry hair and scalp, dandruff, thinning hair, or “high maintenance” hair—due to relaxers, weaves, or coloring – makes many clients unable to exercise and maintain a healthy hair style.

African-American women’s hair concerns are real, and can start even in childhood. Hot combs, kiddie perms, then braids, weaves, relaxers, coloring, are among the measures we take to keep our hair looking good and staying up with the trends. However, much of this is damaging, and partnering these hair altering processes with the moisture from perspiration when working out, can be a virtual nightmare.

According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, the barrier to being physically active that African-American women’s hair concerns pose has risen to the level of a public health issue, because as a group, African-American women are in greater need of exercise. Seventy-seven percent of Black women are overweight and 49 percent are obese. Moreover, African-Americans are suffering higher rates of chronic illness, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, than the U.S. population overall.

However, the good news is that African-American women can get the benefits of working out without creating hair problems. Walking two 10 minute intervals and including at least one vigorous physical activity can be accomplished without being concerned about your hair.

An additionally enjoyable technique is to start a walking program with friends, family, neighbors or co-workers. Start out naturally – either by walking around your neighborhood or during lunch breaks – and then plan more vigorous and longer bouts of walking near the time of salon visits. If moisture gets to your hair, at least you will be on your way to getting it done and getting that style just how you like it.

Overall, reverse your thinking – it is truly better to be proactive about maintaining good health, than to sacrifice your physical well-being for that “coifed do”.

Learn more about resources available to help you manage your health and wellness needs.

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