Hair-Care Issues Keep Many African-American Women Away From Exercise

Women at the Afro-Hairstyles Competition in California
Image Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters

Many African-American women stay away from gym as they fear they'll lose their hair, a new study has found.

Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that African-American women's hair-care issues keep them from doing enough physical activity to maintain healthy weight.

Lead author, Amy J. McMichael, M.D., first thought of hair-care worries being a reason for women not wanting to go to gym when she began seeing a lot of her patients were overweight and that it was damaging their health. McMichael added that many African women straighten their hair which is a time consuming process. This prevents them from washing their hair often after vigorous exercises. "Overwashing fragile hair can make it break off easily," McMichael said.

"I treat a lot of African American women in our clinic and had noticed how many of them are overweight, and I wanted to know why. I'm treating them for dermatology related issues, but as a doctor this was even more concerning because excess weight puts these women at risk for hypertension, diabetes and other serious problems," she said.

According to Office of Minority Health, African-American women in the U.S. have the highest rates of obesity/overweight when compared to other groups. About four out of every five African-American women are overweight or obese.

The study included 103 African-American women ranging in age from 21 to 60. These women were asked about their lifestyle, physical activity, and hair-care.

All participants said that exercise was important. At least 40 percent of the women reported that they avoided exercise at times due to issues regarding hair-care. Half of the women said that they changed their hairstyles to suit their exercise.

Researchers say that fixing hair care issues may help women stay with the exercise routine. McMichael noted that cutting hair to avoid excess sweat is not a solution and more research is required to find out ways to address the issue.

The study is published in Archives of Dermatology.

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