Does Your Hair Keep You From Working Out?

A study found half of African American women surveyed avoided working out to avoid having to re-style their hair

There are all sorts of internet articles touting "face-slimming" hairstyles and "cuts for double chins." But according to a new study, there may be more at play than a sharp bob or a set of smartly-cut blunt bangs — particularly when it comes to African-American women.

In 2000, Michael Railey, associate dean and professor multicultural affairs at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, conducted a study published in the Journal of the National Medical Association which found that half of the women surveyed — all black, overweight or obese and between the ages of 29 and 69, — reported that their hair care directly affected their exercise habits. Nearly 60 percent visited their hairdresser at least twice a month. More worrisome, many of these women were being treated for high blood pressure, diabetes or other illnesses that strongly benefit from regular exercise.

Railey explained that these women even have a term for their pro-hair/anti-workout choice: A "freeze day" — a day when you don’t exercise because you don’t want to mess up your hair.

I’d imagine this phenomenon isn’t limited to African-American women. I have white friends with very curly/kinky hair and they hate getting it wet&mndash;particularly after a pricey blow-out.

Commenting on the phenomenon last week, Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD,  wrote, "It is understandable then that after investing much time and money into a hairstyle that a woman would want the style to last more than a couple of days. Usually once the hair is wet (even just from sweating), a significant amount of time must be invested to restore the hairstyle. So many women choose to avoid exercising (especially swimming) to maintain their hair. Even if a black woman had the time and skills (or money) to wash and restyle her chemically-straightened hair daily or several times a week, it would be unhealthy for her hair to wash it that often. Most other cultures/groups can wash their hair daily without stripping away the natural oils that protect the hair and scalp.

But is it worth it? Should we deny ourselves the benefits of regular exercise — weight control, improved mood, more energy, better sleep? Is our hair more important than decreasing our risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke? Sadly, many of us make that decision every day. Because when we look in the mirror, we don’t see high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. We see ourselves, often only from the neck up. So our hair can be the biggest piece of our self-image."

Wilkins suggests bringing women’s health into the beauty salons, a popular public health tactic in black communities, considering how much time women spend there. “Let’s talk to our stylists about hairstyles that will keep us beautiful but allow us to exercise regularly. Your stylist can offer tips on what to do to maintain your hairstyle longer (products, headbands, wraps). You don’t have to sacrifice your hair to be healthy.”

 Does your hair ever prevent you from working out? Chime in below.

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