Dr. Benjamin stopped by the show because it's known to draw 60,000 stylists of which a majority are black women. The Bronner Bros. show highlights natural hair. Benjamin noted that it's a widely held belief that black women don't exercise because it might ruin their carefully created hairstyle.
Benjamin told The Huffington Post that she's struggled with similar issues. Her priority as surgeon general is to promote prevention as well as to build a healthy and fit nation.
Hair Challenges Of Sweating During Exercise
Dr. Benjamin noted "What we find when talking particularly with African American women - I’m later finding this with other women, too - was that when we talk about exercise, we hear, “I don’t want to sweat my hair back or I don’t want to mess up my hairstyle. It cost me too much to get my hair done this week.”
The surgeon general noted that talking with hairdressers is a great audience to help uncover exercise-friendly hairstyles which will encourage women to continue to exercise and get healthy without messing up their hair.
Avoiding Exercise To Protect Hair
Although some health experts might be surprised to hear that women might avoid exercising to avoid destroying their hair, studies confirm that this is definitely a consideration and is not just anecdotal.
Is the messing up the hair issue just an easy excuse for not exercising? Sure, but it's a very real excuse. If you go out and spend $40-50 to get your hair done, you don’t want to go out and get it all sweaty and wet that afternoon before you got to show it off.
Dr. Benjamin confirmed that not only was messing up her hair and issue for her when she was considering exercising, but a number of women she's talked to give this reason as a primary reason.
She noted that when you sweat a lot into your hair, it can completely change your hairstyle. Benjamin noted that African Americans, unlike other races and ethnic groups, can't just wash their hair and go out. They need to spend a lot more time on their hair. Benjamin believes this is a very real issue.
Reasons Cited For Not Getting Recommended Level Of Exercise
Benjamin's office cited two studies which examined why fewer than 30% of minority women in the United States get the recommended level of exercise.
The reasons woman are not exercising according to the American Journal of Public Health were:
1. Lack of time2. Economic constraints
3. Major life changes or traumas4. Safety issues
5. Weather and environment6. Hassle of personal care
7. Keeping hair looking good
Although this is definitely a concern for African Americans, Dr. Benjamin noted that other ethnic groups have also reported the same hair issues. Dr. Benjamin said she's heard similar issues from Hispanics.
She's also heard it from a couple of her older white patients who get their hair done every weekend and don't want to exercise after their hair is coiffed.
Options For Dealing With Hair And Exercising
How does Dr. Benjamin recommend women deal with keeping their hair nice while still exercising. The good doctor told The Huffington Post that her solution is to "exercise at night so when I finish, I can be at home. I'm a night person anyway."
She did note that the hair issue did deter her from exercising earlier in her career.She said that when she was in college she liked swimming but didn't swim because it messed up her hair. She said "It was a factor, it was a thought – it didn’t stop all the way, it becomes a decision point."
Hairstyles Which Work With Exercise
Hair stylists can offer tips on different hair products which makes hairstyles last longer. There are also natural hairstyles, braids and creative short hairstyles which hold up better against exercise generated sweat.
Dr. Benjamin hopes the hair stylist will help her pass the message of the importance of exercise to achieve and maintain good health. She pointed out that "everyone has to be involved. Health care doesn’t just occur in doctor’s office – it occurs in the home, work place, where you worship. We all have a role to play in our own health."
Hairdressers Are Public Health Ambassadors
She believes hairdressers make great ambassadors because people will talk to their hairdresser about almost anything. As a result Dr. Benjamin admits that her office like to engage hair dressers to get out important public health messages such as having conversations about sensitive issues, public health issues.
The good doctor stressed hairdressers can help their clients understand the importance of getting HIV testing or dealing with things like diabetes and heart disease, strokes and getting your blood pressure checked.
And of course who better than you hair stylist to be a great ally in creating a sweat proof, exercise friendly hairstyle which helps you get motivated to move your body. Exactly.
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