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Just One Thing: Don’t Let Your Hair Stop You From Sweating It Out

Image: A woman works out in an outdoor exercise area at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx section of New York City

A woman works out in an outdoor exercise area at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx section of New York City, on September 13, 2012. Mike Segar / Reuters, file

When we talk about getting healthy, the advice is always the same. If you want to feel better and reduce your risks of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression, you have to get moving. You don’t have to do a marathon, or overdo it. You just have to start. Yet many black women resist sweating it out in the gym, at the park or in the pool because of their hair.

“We give hair way too much power over our lives and our health,” says Nina Moore, a personal trainer at Equinox in Los Angeles. Moore, who has been a personal trainer for 18 years, wore her hair long for years and she knows all about the challenges of spending hours in the gym and the time maintaining her hair. She took the plunge and did the big chop when she turned 40. “I found it extremely liberating,” she says.

Nina Moore, personal trainer and health advocate.

Moore says she has many black female clients, and gets asked all the time for hair tips from women who really see the hair thing getting in the way of the health thing. “I advise women who are searching for a way mange hair challenges to find an easy to maintain natural style,” Moore says. “Natural hair is very "in" and there are many styles that compliment both your features and your lifestyle.”

In fact, maybe more women are seeing the light. Sales for relaxed hair care products have reduced by more than $50 million since 2008, and products to maintain natural styles continue to rise. The numbers of blogs and sites with regular tips for women of color who want to get control of their hair, and still stay active are also booming.

Moore said that she is glad that she did the big chop, yet she acknowledges that our hair is often a part of our identity. “When I first cut my hair, it was interesting to gauge other people's reactions, which varied but mostly aligned along their feelings about themselves and their hair, ” she says.

You don't have to choose between your health and your hair.

“Some women thought I was very brave and celebrated my courage while other's thought I should grow it back immediately.” (Moore has since grown her hair long again.)

Yet as a trainer and an advocate for getting fit, as the top priority, Moore says, “you would be surprised how big an impact a little activity can have on your health. Increased energy, decreased stress, increased endurance, and even a better social life.”

Moore says it is important to let go of the obstacles like having the perfect hairstyle and focus on the long term benefits of physical activity. “A regular exercise practice will improve the quality and quantity of your life,” Moore says. “Getting in shape takes effort, staying in shape is easy - it becomes a part of your daily routine.”

First and foremost, Moore says that it is important to put a priority on your wellness. “You don't have to choose between your health and your hair,” she says.