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Research: Hairstyles Keeps Some Black Women From Exercising

Hair Braiding
Hair Braiding

Research says about two of every five African-American women avoid exercise because of concerns about their hair, according to Fox News.

“As an African-American woman, I have that problem, and my friends have that problem. So I wondered if my patients had that problem,” said Dr. Amy McMichael, the study’s senior researcher and a dermatologist at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

One theory is that hair care can be tedious and costly for African-American women. Rochelle Mosley, a salon owner in Harlem, New York City, told Reuters Health some of her African-American clients come in once per week to get their hair straightened at a cost of about $40.

They may not want to wash their hair more than once a week to preserve their hairstyle, and may avoid sweating because of that. Mosely added that some of her clients schedule their appointments around their workout schedules and that she tries to find hairstyles that could work with physical activity.

Researchers surveyed 103 African-American women in October 2007, and found that more than half of the women were exercising for less than 75 minutes per week, which is less than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

That’s also less than U.S. women on average. A 2007 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about half of all American women were exercising nearly 150 minutes per week.

Fox reports that more than a quarter of the women in the new study said they didn’t exercise at all. About a third of the women said they exercise less than they’d like because of their hair, and half said they have considered changing their hair for exercise.

Findings from the study showed that women concerned about their their hair were almost three times less likely to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. However, other factors may contribute to the decision making process such as scalp issues like itching and dandruff.

McMichael admitted that they can’t say whether this is a problem shared by other ethnicities, because the study was only conducted on African-American women.

“It is a really important conversation that African-American women want to have, and they’re looking for solutions,” said McMichael.