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Exercise: Are black women too hair obsessed to do it?

Imagine, you want to exercise before work yet have a 9 am meeting scheduled. You go to the gym at 7am, lift weights and get on the treadmill. When it’s over, you are covered in rocks, not beads, of sweat. Your hair is soaking wet, feeling quite raw and crunchy. You have about an hour left to shower, get dressed, do makeup, style your hair and get to work.

Some people can just shower and then dry their hair with a blow dryer and walk out. Not you. Some people don’t even have to worry about hair since it is closely cropped or not there at all. Again, that’s not you.

As a black women with stretched, straightened or relaxed hair, you have to start again from scratch and create a new style.  This is a problem. Not an excuse. And not obsessive.

Having professional and neat hair styles is important when stepping foot into work or any social space. This is true for all women and present a particular problem for black women who want to exercise. I will not get started on the historical, political and racial impact that our hair type and styles have on the society at large.

Wake up!  This is our real hair life!

This is not superficial. This is a real concern. Natural hair is professional as well. However, creating certain styles with natural hair also take a while to style especially if it involves stretched hair.

And, since everyone’s hair is different, one natural may be able to do a wash and go and leave the gym for work. Another natural may not.

Bottom line, if you want to exercise during a weekday (which is 5 out of the 7), you inevitably have to figure out how you will present yourself in a professional manner to be taken seriously by yourself and coworkers if you exercise in the morning. If you exercise in the evening, you still have to pull your style back together for the morning.

The Deadly Statistics

So I ask you again are black women too hair obsessed to exercise??

No, they are not. Black women are not hair obsessed but rather hair realists. However these statistics are also very real:

According to the Office of Minority Health:

  • About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.
  • African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S.
  • In 2011-2014, African American girls were 50% more likely to be overweight than Non-Hispanic White girls

With all of this information, Dr. H. Shellae Versey suggests that rather than accusing Black women of making excuses, investigate the “sociocultural context of body appearance, with a specific focus on hair.” We have to find solutions rather than make accusations. Black women do exercise and there are many who have found the secret to having the hair they want while making healthy choices.

We can thrive too!

So, while hair is a factor in exercise, we can find solutions. It is possible to live healthy and exercise while also being able to walk into the various social contexts of our lives with confidence because we know we look and feel good, our hair styles being a part of this confidence. We should have this right and not be afraid to find solutions.

For the next five weeks, I will post content on this topic. However, I would be so wrong by not leaving you with some hair ideas to help you bridge the gap between making sure your body is healthy and making sure your hair is work ready.

Here are some natural styles that kick tail in the gym

·         Braids

·         Cornrows and put a wig on it when you leave

·         Twists

·         Crown Braid

Zahra Barnes, Senior Wellness Editor at Self Magazine discussed the hair styles that helped her through her exercise routine. One style that she mentioned was two side braids that she pulled back into a bun, which was particularly cute.

So stay tuned for resources to help you bridge the gap between looking professional at work and exercising for your health.  Check out the references below from this article. Also share your thoughts, comments and opinions below about black women and exercising.


Do you think black women are too hair obsessed to exercise?

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More than my hair Not rated yet
I don’t think black women are too hair obsessed to workout, however, we are very style conscious. We understand that we are judged from the door and our …

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We’ve had to reprioritize in recent years. I of course personally experienced the shift. There was just no way I was going to let my hair hold me back …

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Office of Minority Health: Obesity and African Americans,

Zahra Barnes, Starting An Exercise Routine Helped Me Fall In Love With My Natural Hair,

Dr. H Shellae Versey, Centering Perspectives on Black Women, Hair Politics, and Physical ActivityAmerican Journal of Public Health May 2014, Vol 104, No. 5