When we think about living a healthy life, we think about exercise and diet. But it surprises people that exercise not only can flatten a stomach and bulge a bicep, but also increase the quality and quantity of hair on their heads. Just imagine, investing time in improving exercise and diet early can save you a bundle at the local hair loss clinic later. Prevention can be much cheaper than years of hair loss treatments.
There are several reasons that attention to exercise and diet can help prevent certain hair loss conditions. And, there are a few ways in which a bad approach to weight management is detrimental to hair health. What good is to get ripped if you have thinning hair? Here are some good and bad approaches:
Increased blood circulation is GOOD: Hair is one of the fastest growing parts of the body, and to do so it needs nutrients. With exercise of any kind, the heart rate rises, bringing blood to the scalp and hair follicles as much as the other organs (including skin, which is itself an organ). That rosy flush from a workout session means your hair and scalp just got a meal of nutrients.
Smart nutrition is GOOD: That said about circulation, it does little good if all you eat are processed snacks and soda pop. The nutrients that are good for you in other ways – complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), quality proteins, healthier oils, minimal sugar – will provide your hair with what it needs. For hair, it’s ok to place a little more emphasis on protein, which is what hair is made of … but don’t stop with just that.
Rapid and “yo-yo” weight loss are BAD: Extreme weight loss, particularly if it happens rapidly, signals to the body that it needs to use its reserves for more important functions than hair (from an evolutionary standpoint, hair is less necessary than, say, your heart, bones, and reproductive organs). This is why prisoners of concentration camps who were subjected to starvation are often bald. Individuals suffering from anorexia and bulimia frequently have brittle and thin hair. This is one of many reasons why a sensible approach to weight loss is strongly advised.
Unadressed sedentary lifestyle stress BAD: The Covid-19 global pandemic has heaped stress on even those not directly impacted by the coronavirus. California-based psychiatrist and author Jennifer Love, MD (“When Crisis Strikes: 5 Steps to Heal Your Brain, Body, and Life from Chronic Stress,” 2020, Citadel), told National Public Radio that, “We, as humans, like to have the idea that we are in control of our minds and that stress isn’t a big deal,” she says. “But it’s simply not true.” The story explores maladies that are up from the pandemic period, which include teeth grinding, insomnia, other physical symptoms that seem to lack a cause – and hair loss. A dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, Shilpi Khetarpal, told NPR his patients with stress-related hair loss since June 2020 have increased by a multiple of four.
The physical manifestations of stress are largely tied to the production of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol in particular. Without exercise to use that adrenaline, and to flush or prevent cortisol production overall, negative health impacts are almost guaranteed. At the very least, the stressed person can put on a mask and go for a walk outside – or do whatever exercise he or she can devise to reduce the impact of those adverse hormones.