A study conducted by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C., suggested that 31% of the 103 African-American women surveyed admitted that they exercise less because it may harm their hairstyle, according to a study released in November, 2007. All of the women studied agreed that it is important to lead a healthy life, which includes exercise. Exercise is especially important in the African American community because we are more prone to diabetes, hypertension, and complications due to obesity, including heart disease. Though we face many health concerns that exercise will combat, African American women have a different deterrent from working out; their hair.
Many ethnic women wear their hair straightened whether it’s done chemically or thermally (with a hot tool such as a flat iron). African American women are known to spend more money on their hair than women of any other ethnicity. This explains their apprehension to exercise and undoing their costly hair style. It is not uncommon for an African American woman to go to the salon and spend $100 on her hair service. After spending money on their hair service, many women feel that it would be a waste their money to “sweat out” their hair style at the gym. Any woman who has naturally curly or coarse hair understands the difficulty of keeping their hair straightened, while working up a sweat.
Perspiration causes the hair to become wet and revert back to its naturally curly and/or coarse state. Sweat, which is comprised of water and salts (sodium and potassium), can make the hair appear dry and dull. In order for her to wear her hair in her preferred straightened hair style she would have to repeat the straightening process. That process generally includes shampooing, conditioning, roller setting or blow drying, and flat ironing the hair. This process can take hours. Contrary to popular belief, curly and coarse hair is fragile. The hair cannot be shampooed and thermally styled numerous times per week. Over shampooing the hair will cause it to become dry and break.
If you are going to the gym or for a run try these style savers. For straightened hair, try brushing your hair into a firm ponytail. Make sure to use an elastic holder covered in cloth and a holder without a metal clasp to avoid ripping your hair. Place a sweat band at your hairline, this not only helps to keep sweat out of your eyes, it will keep your edges in place. Once the hair is in a ponytail twist it and secure it with a hairpin. This will allow the hair to retain body and bounce in your post workout hair style.
If your hair has been curled with a hot curler or roller set, try a pin curls. This is done by taking large sections of the hair, combing each section into one large curl, twisting the curl down onto the scalp and securing the curl with a bobby pin or metal two prong metal clip. Six to ten large pin curls should suffice. After your hair has dried, finger style your hair into place. This preserves your curls and keeps the hair full of body and volume.
If you are taking part in water sports, wrap your hair around your head in a circular motion using metal duckbill clips to hold the hair in place if necessary. Cover your hair with a satin or silk scarf. Finally, cover the scarf with a latex or silicone swim cap.
There are many convenient hair options for African American women who workout including natural styles. A woman with natural hair does not have any chemicals, such as a relaxer or hair color, in her hair. Sisters who wear their hair in locs, natural curls, braids, twists, and other natural hairstyles are less likely to let their hair stand in the way of a good workout.