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Women Health. 2016;56(4):428-47. doi: 10.1080/03630242.2015.1101743. Epub 2015 Oct 23.

"My hair or my health:" Overcoming barriers to physical activity in African American women with a focus on hairstyle-related factors.

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a Department of Medicine , Center for Women's Health Research, University of Colorado School of Medicine , Aurora , Colorado , USA.
b Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine , University of Colorado School of Medicine , Aurora , Colorado , USA.
c Center for African American Health , Denver , Colorado , USA.
d Center for Gerontology , Western Kentucky University , Bowling Green , Kentucky , USA.
e ALDunn Health Consulting, LLC , Loveland , Colorado , USA.


Physical activity disparities among African American (AA) women may be related to sociocultural barriers, including difficulties with restyling hair after exercise. We sought to identify physical activity barriers and facilitators in AA women with a focus on sociocultural factors related to hairstyle maintenance. Participants (n = 51) were AA women aged 19-73 years who completed valid surveys and participated in structured focus groups, stratified by age and physical activity levels, from November 2012 to February 2013. The Constant Comparison method was used to develop qualitative themes for barriers and facilitators. The most frequently reported general physical activity barrier among exercisers was "lack of money" (27%) and among non-exercisers was "lack of self-discipline" (57%). A hairstyle-related barrier of "sweating out my hairstyle" was reported by 7% of exercisers and 29% of non-exercisers. This hairstyle-related barrier included the need for extra time and money to restyle hair due to perspiration. Hairstyle-related facilitators included: prioritizing health over hairstyle and high self-efficacy to restyle hair after perspiration. Participants were interested in resources to simplify hairstyle maintenance. AA women whose hairstyle is affected by perspiration may avoid physical activity due to time and financial burdens. Increasing self-efficacy to restyle hair after perspiration may help to overcome this barrier.


African American women; barriers; facilitators; health disparities; physical activity

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