We all know there are numerous benefits of exercising. In general, exercise will enhance your overall health. Specifically, regular workouts will help control weight, fight chronic health conditions, improve mood, boost energy, and promote better sleep.
However, not all side effects of exercise are good. Have you ever heard the phrase, “if a little is good, more must be better?” That doesn’t hold true with exercise. There is such a thing as excessive exercising – and it isn’t good.
Excessive exercising can cause sleep disorders, extreme fatigue, and actually decrease the effectiveness of your workouts. If you are working out constantly, it probably means you are attentive to your appearance. Therefore, this last side effect is probably the most worrisome to you; excessive exercising can cause hair loss.
The Causes of Hair Loss
Hair loss falls into two categories: permanent and temporary. There is still a bit of mystery around the cause of permanent hair loss, but most believe it is caused by a genetic predisposition to baldness.
What you need to worry about is temporary hair loss. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – just because the hair loss isn’t permanent doesn’t mean it won’t significantly alter your appearance.
Temporary hair loss is usually caused by one or more lifestyle choices that negatively affect your hair’s growth cycle. The three most common causes of temporary hair loss – poor nutrition, excessive stress, and improper hair care – are common conditions for most athletes. Let’s take a look at each one.
Poor nutrition is the leading cause of temporary hair loss. Most workout aficionados don’t give enough thought to their nutritional needs. This is especially true of individuals who exercise to lose weight.
If you are trying to lose weight, you have probably limited the amount of calories you consume. This will lead to weight loss – and hair loss. Exercise too much and your body will use up necessary vitamins and nutrients faster than they get replenished.
Now, let’s take a look at the second most common cause of hair loss.
Stress can affect nearly every aspect of your health – your hair is no exception. You’ve probably never thought of this, but exercise is a significant stressor for your body. If you exercise excessively, you are subjecting your body to a state of chronic stress.
This is a good time to address the phrase “excessive exercise.” What is considered excessive? As general rule of thumb, if you are exercising for more than an hour on a daily basis, you are exercising too much. No matter what type of workout you engage in, you should only do it 5 days (or less) per week. Also, workouts should only last 45 minutes. There are of course exceptions to this rule, such as for pro athletes etc.
While not as common as nutrition and stress, there is another lifestyle condition that often leads to hair loss.
If you don’t show enough love to your locks, they will retaliate. For example, if you don’t shower after your workout, sweat will buildup on your scalp. This buildup will affect your hair’s health and could cause it to fall out.
Likewise, if you are using the same dirty, sweaty hat over and over, your hair will suffer.
Many athletes – especially females – like to have their hair out of the face while exercising. However, excessive pulling or tugging on the hair leads to hair loss. Super restrictive hairstyles like ponytails, pigtails, braids, or cornrows can literally take chunks of hair from your scalp.
Lastly, swimming in chlorinated pools will cause hair to dry out and break off.
Now that we have scared you half to death, we’ll tell you how to fix the problem.
Preventing and Reversing Hair Loss
Luckily, the three main causes of temporary hair loss – poor nutrition, excessive stress, and improper hair care – are easy to prevent and reverse.
Your body naturally prioritizes the distribution of nutrients. It gives attention to vital organs first. Then, any leftover nutrients are distributed to hair, skin and nails.
Therefore, it is important to eat plenty of nutrient rich foods. Your hair thrives on folate, beta carotene, iron, biotin, zinc, vitamins B and C, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. For specific suggestions on what to eat, check out this article.
Now that we have solved your dieting drama, let’s focus on your stress level.
If you insist on stressing your body with multiple workouts each week, you must find ways to relax and reduce stress in other areas of your life. Everyone has different stress management techniques. We aren’t going to try telling you what to do. We are just going to tell you to find something that works and do it!
Also, do everything in your power to make sure your workouts are as stress-free as possible. Take the time to warm-up before your workout and cool-down after. Plus, you’ll want to stretch your muscles thoroughly. Injuries are the ultimate body stressor.
If you managed to take care of the two biggest causes of hair loss, the last restoration technique will be easy to implement.
Keep your scalp healthy and free of sweat and grim. Rotate and wash your hats regularly. Wash your hair with a mild pH-balanced shampoo once a week and use a protein-rich conditioner.
Reduce the amount of heat you apply to your hair via blow dryers and curling/flat irons. Heat damages hair.
Replace tight, restricting hairstyles with looser options. Be gentle when you brush and style your hair.
Before you get into a swimming pool, wet your hair with non-chlorinated water. Your hair will soak up the regular water and hopefully won’t be damaged as badly by the chlorine. If possible, get out of the pool and rinse your hair after 30 minutes of swimming. Otherwise, wear a swim cap. Also, make sure you wash your hair with shampoo after each pool workout.
There is no reason why you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Exercise safely and minimally and you can hang on to your hair. Work on improving your overall health and your hair will follow suit.
Guest author Jessica Clement writes about various health topics. Lately, she has been doing a lot of research on hair loss; as a result of her efforts, more readers are understanding hair loss and its causes.