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African American Women's Hair Issues and Engagement in Physical Activity Focus Groups: Executive Summary

A growing body of research and literature has identified that for many African American (AA) women, hair issues pose a barrier to their engaging in physical activity.  Focus groups were held with AA women age 45-61 and with groups of beauticians who have AA women clients, seeking further understanding of AA women’s hair issue and ways to support initiatives designed to increase the level of physical activity among underserved populations at high risk of chronic conditions and disease related to low levels of physical activity.

This Executive Summary reports the findings of the focus groups, which include the following:

  • For these AA women, managing time to do their hair and having time is a critical factor in making a commitment to exercise or participating in any physical activity on a regular basis.
  • The AA 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. 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.
  • The participants frequently discuss their hair issues and health concerns with their stylists.
  • Stylists indicate that the concerns their clients voice most often are damaged hair and how to keep their hair healthy.
  • The AA women say it is a waste of money to have their hair done and then exercise often.
  • While there is a concern about losing business if their clients attend the salon less often because of exercising, stylists like the idea of a walking program where consumers would be recruited through the salon and the stylists would be working with their clients.

The focus groups were conducted December 15-16, 2008.  For more information, contact Helen W. Brown at 202-434-6172. (16 pages)

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