The benefits of exercise are widely known, ranging from physical conditioning and disease prevention to mental health and more. Apart from the possibility of overtraining or injury, it’s hard to say if there are any downsides to exercise at all!
However, a combination of anecdotal evidence and research suggests that exercise can have a hidden danger for hair health and longevity. Is there any truth to the idea that too much physical activity can cause hair loss, and if so, how do we balance our exercise regimens to preserve hair to the fullest?
Let’s figure out if exercise can actually lead to hair loss and outline the best ways to stay fit while keeping hair in great shape.
It might sound unusual to link exercise to hair loss, especially since hair problems are generally associated with a lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle.
Too much of any good thing has the inverse effect, and it’s certainly possible to go overboard with your exercise regimen and harm your hair in the process. Here’s what we know about exercise and its possible connection to hair loss.
The scientific consensus on pattern balding tells us that DHT, a byproduct of testosterone, plays a central role in genetic hair loss for men.
These male hormones occur naturally in men following puberty, and many forms of exercise result in increased testosterone production. Therefore, it’s not unfounded to suggest that more exercise means more testosterone and a higher chance of hair loss over time.
While this theory makes sense on paper, it’s missing a key factor in the hair loss equation. This is the role of androgen receptors in the scalp and how they respond to the presence of DHT in any concentration.
Some men are highly vulnerable to DHT’s hair loss properties due to 5-alpha-reductase enzymes, while others can maintain a full head of hair regardless of having high testosterone.
Therefore, it’s not entirely accurate to say that testosterone boosts from exercise result in hair loss since 5-AR is the real culprit. This explains why men often take 5-AR inhibitors like Finasteride to limit the impact of the enzyme while preserving high T levels and healthy hair.
Since testosterone spikes from exercise aren’t to blame for hair loss, what other aspects of exercise might lead to problems with hair growth or balding?
Another viable theory concerns stress and inflammation resulting from strenuous exercise and the dangers of overtraining. While most people struggle to get enough exercise daily, a small contingent of fitness enthusiasts take their routines too far and cause chronic stress in the body with a host of negative physiological effects.
Symptoms of overtraining include excess fatigue, trouble recovering, poor sleep, and other health markers that suggest burnout. Since hair growth depends on all systems of the body functioning properly — including circulation, recovery, and hormone regulation — this condition may disrupt follicle cycles and lead to dysfunction or shedding.
While this might raise alarms for some, it’s extremely rare for the average person to overdo exercise to the extent that hair may be damaged. Unless you’re a professional triathlete or consistently cutting weight for combat sports, this is likely nothing to worry about.
If you’re working out safely and recovering properly, hair loss from exercise alone is probably not your top concern. However, how you care for your hair after a difficult workout can have more impact than you think.
Between sweating, straining, and wearing protective headgear like caps or helmets, follicles may be coated in salty residue or dead skin cells at the end of a tough session. If these compounds are left to sit and accumulate for hours, bacteria may build up and harm the follicle unit or structure of the hair shaft.
The answer is not to avoid exercise but to implement an immediate and thorough cleaning and care routine as soon as you finish working out. Combined with proper gear maintenance and other grooming standards, you can minimize these hazards and keep your hair looking great despite all the wear and tear.
If you’re looking for an excuse to skip the gym, you’re unfortunately out of luck. Hair loss is not caused by exercise itself, but rather by a mismanaged exercise routine and lack of hair care.
Here are some practical tips to stay on top of your fitness routine and still grow hair to its full potential.
Variety is always beneficial in your approach to fitness and in preserving your hair for the long haul. Unless you’re training for a specific event like powerlifting or distance running, try mixing up your routine to benefit all systems of the body and your hair as well.
For instance, you can lift weights three times per week, add a couple of cardio sessions, and do some extra stretching or yoga on the weekends. This will help regulate healthy testosterone levels while boosting blood circulation and clearing out waste products from the cells in the meantime — all good things for hair.
A winning workout routine will fall short without a strong diet plan behind it, and the same principles apply to hair growth. Dial in your nutrition with balanced macronutrients and give your follicles the building blocks they need to support a successful anagen phase.
Micronutrients from fruits, veggies, and supplements can also help fill nutritional gaps and elevate your hair health.
When the workout is finished, don’t neglect hair care until later. Jump in the shower and scrub deeply with your preferred shampoo or cleansing essential oils like peppermint and tea tree. This will clear the scalp of buildup and bacteria and leave you feeling fresh to take on the next challenge.
Also, clean clothes, sheets, and equipment regularly to prevent bacteria from getting a foothold. When in doubt, double down on cleaning or replace gear altogether.
If you’re following a hair restoration plan with treatments like microchanneling or finasteride, don’t let exercise hinder your success. If you undergo hair transplantation, follow the clinic’s instructions and leave the strenuous exercise out of the program for two weeks.
Like building strength or an endurance program, a hair restoration strategy only works if you stay consistent and adhere to the instructions provided by your trusted hair loss expert.
Like all things in health and life, managing exercise and hair preservation is a matter of balance, strategy, and common sense. By all means, give your mind and body every advantage with a consistent exercise regimen, but don’t get carried away to the point of overtraining and metabolic exhaustion!
Furthermore, as you push your limits in the gym or the running trails, take time for hair care during your post-workout cooldown. This will allow your body to recover properly while keeping follicle units clean, happy, and healthy.
If you’re looking for a boost in your hair restoration strategy, it might be time for professional input. Reach out to our team at Jae Pak, M.D. Medical, and let’s get your hair in tip-top shape for the road ahead.
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