This month is full of hearts, flowers and romance, so why not light the spark for a healthy love affair?
Heather Worthy, owner of Worthy Fitness, LLC, has a plan to help sisters love their hair in a way that supports overall health. She and co-author Desiree J. Williams wrote Love Affair With My Hair: Why Black Women Cheat on Health. Whether you perm, loc, twist or weave, this book offers tools to build a fitness program around your hair-care schedule.
Worthy, who is also association director of community health for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, began thinking about hair and health in 2013 while at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. “There were a lot of black women who were overweight with hair that was done to the nines,” she said.
The statistics are staggering. More than half of all African-American women — 56.6 percent — are obese. A 30-year-old woman who is 5 feet 6 inches and weighs 185 or more is considered obese and a 245-pound woman would be severely obese.
When combined, the percentage of black women who are overweight and obese rises to 82 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While at a girls’ empowerment conference, Worthy met Williams, who holds a doctorate in physical therapy from Hampton University, and asked if she wanted to collaborate. Williams, former 2013 Miss Virginia and 2016 Miss Virginia USA, said yes.
To help women reconcile hair and health, the book shows readers how to calculate their body mass index; BMI estimates health risk based on body weight, gender and age. It gives guidance on setting fitness goals, how to track progress, anticipate challenges and reward yourself.
It offers advice on healthy eating and on how to manage natural or permed hair, with tips specific to straight, curly, long and short styles. It also discusses protective styles and the importance of finding a stylist who will be an ally in your quest to be active while maintaining a cute ’do.
Most of the book lays out the 12-week program. It prescribes a minimum of three workouts a week but more can be added.
Aligning Your Hair Appointments and Workouts
If your hair-care day or weekly salon appointment is on Saturday, your schedule will look like this:
Easy, 20-minute workout
Moderate, 25-minute workout
Intense, 30-minute workout
By the time you’ve gotten your sweatiest, you’ll be just a day away for your weekly hair care day.
“It’s a 12-week regimen based on your schedule,” Worthy said. “I think every black woman can relate to that.”
The workouts use minimal equipment and can be done in a gym, a backyard, a park or in your living room. The challenge is divided into four-week segments. You’ll need only a mat or a towel for the first four weeks, when you’ll do body-weight only moves. Weeks five through 12 incorporate moves that use resistance bands or hand weights. That’ll help avoid fitness plateaus by gradually increasing intensity.
Worthy has been active most of her life. And she, like many active black women, developed the strategies she later put into the book.
Until about three years ago, Worthy had a perm. But after watching the film Good Hair, she couldn’t shake images of aluminum soda cans dissolving in beakers of sodium hydroxide, the active ingredient in many hair straighteners and drain cleaners. “After I saw the cans, I said I just can’t do perms anymore.”
That film came out in 2009. Worthy resisted for a few years, but eventually transitioned to natural hair, which she wears flat ironed.
She hopes women will use the book to help them get or stay active and focused on their health without sacrificing their hair style. Managing her own hair now takes a bit longer than when she had a perm, but she likes the results.
“From a professional standpoint, I’m not to going to meetings looking crazy,” she said. “It’s healthier. You’re not putting chemicals in that could burn a hole though a soda can. My hair is healthier, stronger and softer. I just like the way it feels and it looks. It’s worth it.”
Need to Jump-Start Your Own Routine?
Add a five-day challenge from Love Affair With My Hair: Why Black Women Cheat on Health.
Keep your core stable and strong. Avoid letting your hips dip toward the floor. Beginners can make this move easier by resting on your knees. Make it more challenging by placing your feet closer together.
Day 1: Hold for 30 seconds
Day 2: 45 seconds
Day 3: 1 minute
Day 4: 1 minute, 15 seconds
Day 5: 1 minute, 30 seconds
Stand with feet about shoulder width apart and toes pointed slightly outward. You’re your knees and lower your hips down and back, keeping your weight in your heels and your chest up. Avoid allowing your knees to extend past your toes.
Day 1: 20 squats
Day 2: 40 squats
Day 3: 60 squats
Day 4: 80 squats
Day 5: 100 squats
Nichele Hoskins is a Washington, D.C.-based health writer and a Level 2-certified Spinning instructor.
Join the Community
Like the Love Affair With My Hair Facebook page, and look for announcements on fitness challenges coming in May.
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