Hair Over Health? Reasons Why Women Don't Workout

The Surgeon General talks gym hair, bacne, blowouts and other reasons women don't workout

“Oftentimes you get women saying, ‘I can’t exercise today because I don’t want to sweat my hair back or get my hair wet,’ ” said Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. “When you’re starting to exercise, you look for reasons not to, and sometimes the hair is one of those reasons.”

The mostly male press core giggled at her logic -- and Peter Stier of the National Center For Public Policy Research sniped, "I don't know whether the surgeon general's role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre." She is taking a lot of flak for her opinion, especially when she mentioned black women and their extensive and expensive hair regimens specifically. But I totally understand where Dr. Benjamin is coming from and while I'm not saying that we girls should value our hair over our health, I think that if you want to encourage more women to exercise you do need to talk about some of the cosmetic issues.

Women are placed in a strange position in our society when it comes to exercise. We're told that we should exercise to be skinny (health repeatedly comes in second in polls of why women exercise), that we should doll up when we go to the gym and that looking hot is equally as important as getting sweaty. (I once had a male friend tell me that women should only sweat in "sexy" places like our cleavage and face and that anything else, like our pits, is "gross.") Once we're there we're cautioned not to get "too muscular." And people are surprised when we are confused over these conflicting messages?

I'm very dedicated to my workouts but even I'll admit to occasionally skipping or modifying a workout because of my hair. Just recently I skipped my usual evening workout because I didn't want to show up to the first parent-teacher conference of the year looking like a drowned rat and there would have been no time to do my hair between the gym and the conference. And I'm not the only girl who's done so. A good friend of mine refuses to swim because it will ruin her blowout. Another friend avoids working out because any sweat aggravates her terrible bacne. And who hasn't heard a woman say that she'll come to the gym... after she loses weight? Just because these are "women's" issues doesn't mean they're "small" issues.

Have you ever skipped or toned down a workout because of a cosmetic issue? Do you have any advice for working around "gym hair"?

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