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Black Women Working Out: Being Fit and Fabulous

by Talia Whyte

I have been a fitness fanatic for as long as I can remember. Early every morning I get up to run for about an hour either outdoors or at my gym. Some days of the week I will also do weight training with a sprinkling of yoga practices thrown in. So, I was shocked and saddened to read in Essence magazine recently that one third of black women either don’t exercise enough or don’t exercise at all because they don’t want to mess up their hairstyles. Considering that 77 percent of black women are either obese or overweight, the hair excuse is very disturbing.

I attended the 6 AM step class at Roxbury’s Body By Brandy Oct. 12 to get the 411 on the issue. Brandy Cruthird and the other ladies I interviewed in the piece all said that they know black women with this hair obstacle. Most black women have relaxed hair, which can be easily ruined by perspiration. Our hair has such a huge impact on how others see us and how we view ourselves, going back to the days of slavery. Whether it’s relaxed, curly, braided or in locks, we give so much attention to our hair that we spend MANY dollars annually to maintain it. I remember one woman I interviewed on the street about this, saying that “if I go to the gym after spending a couple of hundred dollars getting my hair done, I would have wasted my money.”

Nonetheless, like Cruthird said, cost is relative when you are talking about your health. Women that use the hair excuse defeat the purpose of what looks good because maintaining a physically fit body is just as attractive as a nice hairstyle or outfit. In order to meet black women at the middle with their health needs, Cruthird has expanded the services at her business. In addition to a $25,000 donation from Citizens Bank given to Body By Brandy to combat childhood obesity in the community, Cruthird has also added on a hair salon in her studio.

But at the end of the day, there should be no excuse for black women not exercising. A comedienne friend of mine told me this joke about the dilemma: “When you are in the coffin, no one is going to say ‘she died at the age of 45 of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and being 100 pounds overweight, but her hair looked great' – c’mon, ladies, get it together.”