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Aug 01, 2014 05:53 AM EDT

African-American Women Avoid Physical Activity Due to Hairstyle Concerns, Study

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African American women avoid engaging in any form of physical activity as their hairstyle is affected by perspiration, according to a new study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Center for Women's Health.

Researchers said that lower rates of exercise is directly proportional to cultural barriers as it takes too much time or money to restyle their hair after exercise (that causes perspiration). In the study, hairstyle maintenance barriers were generally less of a concern than highly rated general barriers of "lacking self-discipline" and "lacking money."

Previous studies found that between 29 percent and 48 percent of African American women believed that hairstyle was an important factor in determining whether or not to exercise.

For the study, researchers examined and surveyed the health of 51 women, aged between 18 to 75 years, and their hairstyle-related physical activity barriers and physical activity motivators. The participants were divided into two categories - "exercisers" and "non-exercisers."

The "exercisers" were involved in at least 60 minutes of weekly activity, while the "non-exercisers" reported less than 60 minutes weekly activity.

The researchers found that 29 percent of African American women, who did not exercise regularly, suffered hairstyle barriers to exercise. On the other hand, 7 percent of African American women who exercised regularly reported hairstyle maintenance barriers to exercise.

The study also found that in an attempt to reduce the time required to restyle hair after exercise, some participants adopted "low-maintenance" hairstyles like wearing braids or ponytails. While some of them involved in "safe" physical activities that do not cause perspiration in order to overcome this hairstyle maintenance barrier.

"After a couple of new health diagnoses, one of our study participants said she had to make a decision between her hair and her life," said Lucille Johnson Campbell, MA, director of special initiatives for the Center for African-American Health and co-principal investigator for the study, in a press release. "We want to find solutions so women in the African American community can get through these barriers and improve their health."

"African American women want to overcome these barriers to exercise, and we studied many African American women who have already overcome these barriers by adjusting their hairstyles," said Amy Huebschmann, MD, associate professor at CU School of Medicine and the Center for Women's Health Research and co-principal Investigator for this study.

Huebschmann said that participants suggested various activities that motivates them to be physically active like dance classes, fun group activities and culturally relevant education about moisturizing hair products to combat the dry Colorado climate and "low-maintenance" hairstyles that are minimally affected by perspiration.

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