While there is a good deal we have still to uncover about the link between exercise and hair, this much we know: regular, moderate exercise is good for us in so many ways. Aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, swimming and cycling increase our fitness, stamina and strength. They help us keep our weight in check by burning off calories. Just as importantly, they contribute to our good mental health by giving us that ‘exercise buzz’ and lifting our spirits.
Claims that exercise can also prevent hair loss and stimulate new growth may sound too good to be true, but in this article, we’re going to take a closer look to see if they stand up to scrutiny. Keep scrolling!
There has been little targeted academic research on this subject, but one doesn’t have to be a scientist to know that exercise will not prevent genetically-linked hair loss. Working out may change our bodies, but it can do little to change our DNA profile. With that said, there is still a strong case in favour of the theory that regular exercise benefits our hair.
In the first place, what is good for your overall health is good for your strands. Secondly, one of the proven effects of exercise is that it improves the flow of blood around the body, including to the scalp. This raises the level of oxygen and nutrients in the blood cells that reach the hair follicles. Healthy hair follicles prolong the growth phase of the hair cycle, allowing for the emergence of more strong and healthy strands.
There are many studies, produced over many years, that show that exercise can be an effective antidote to stress. Regular aerobic activity reduces blood pressure and acts as an antidepressant, building the body’s resilience to stress.
This is important, as stress can be a significant factor in some types of hair loss. Telogen effluvium is caused by shock or exposure to some kind of stressful event. The latter can include illness; the hair loss that often follows Covid-19, for example, is thought to be a form of telogen effluvium. Lowering your stress levels through exercise may provide some protection against this type of hair loss.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
The World Health Organisation advises that adults should aim to do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week or at least 75–150 minutes of more vigorous exercising. A combination of moderate and vigorous is also acceptable. This should be enough for general good health and to reap the benefits of better hair growth.
Not all exercise carries the same benefits for your hair follicles. The training aimed at building muscle, for example, may actually be harmful to your hair if done excessively. That’s because lifting heavy weights boosts testosterone levels. When testosterone converts to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), it shrinks hair follicles and blocks new hair growth.
Exercise, Nutrition and Sweat
While exercise is important, therefore, it needs to be balanced with good nutrition. The health of our hair is undoubtedly affected by the quality of our food intake. This applies particularly to those people who take part in vigorous exercise regularly. If you don’t replace the nutrients you use up in the course of your exercise, you risk suffering hair loss because of a lack of iron, vitamins, proteins and minerals reaching the hair follicles. If your body detects that nutrients are in short supply, it will divert those in circulation to vital organs like the brain. In such a scenario, hair follicles lose out on their fair share.
One other thing to watch out for is the sweat produced during and after vigorous exercise. Along with product buildup, this can gather on the scalp and block hair follicles if it is not removed when you wash your hair. On the other hand, washing your hair too frequently can strip your hair of its natural oils. If you work out every day, therefore, wash your hair every other day rather than daily.
There is a need for more academic research to tease out the specific links between healthy hair growth and exercise, but all the indications are that aerobic activity is good for your locks. It has been proven that it improves blood flow and relieves stress. These two factors alone are enough to suggest that it benefits your hair.