As a middle-aged woman of color, I commiserate with friends, family and fitness buffs who see hair maintenance as a barrier to working regularly. The fear of “sweating” out a perm, losing curls that took hours to get just right, or ruining a pressed hairstyle is a concern that I personally understand.

I choose to wear my hair short and kinky because it is easy to maintain, style, and manage daily; however, it has not always been short. I have had my share of added braids, no-lye relaxing perms, and pressing combs. I have missed some events because I was unwilling to venture out into the rain due to the fear of ruining my hair.

But your health is a major priority, and there are ways to get an effective workout without sweating heavily and ruining your beautiful crown.

First, consider one of these protective methods to ensure that your scalp remains healthy, and your hair still looks good:

  • Apply a leave-in conditioner and protect your hair with a silk stocking cap, then cover it with a hat.

  • Pull your hair into a ponytail away from your neck and ears.

  • Or wear it in braids or twists.

Next, plan your workout week to help you navigate your hair care schedule. Think about the type of exercise, how much time you need, whether you will be indoors or outdoors, and who you will be with. The goal is to create a consistent schedule where you raise your heart rate enough to improve your endurance and also engage in exercises that strengthen your muscles and improve joint stability and bone density.

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Aim for two days of cardiovascular activity for 30 to 60 minutes such as walking (briskly in the mall, outside with your dog, or on the treadmill), running, swimming, bike riding, dancing, Zumba, or whatever you enjoy to get a good sweat. On these days, plan your workout after work or on days when you have plenty of extra time after your movement to have a refreshing shower and prepare yourself for your next event or appointment.

Next, aim for three days of 15 to 60 minutes of strength training or specific group exercise classes (in person or virtual) such as body weight sculpting, barre, Pilates, or another activity that does not require a huge amount of sweating. Keep in mind that 10- to 15-minute daily activities such as mowing the lawn also count.

If you need inspiration, try these four effective strength-training exercises that do not require you to break a sweat.

Push-up: This exercise strengthens the shoulders, chest, back, arms and abdominal muscles. Increase the sets as you get stronger.

Advanced. Begin on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, legs extended and knees slightly bent. Dig the heels of your hands into the floor (relax the fingers) as you lift your chest off the floor. Extend your arms (without locking the elbows), then lower the the body down. Do two to three sets of 12 repetitions.

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Beginner. Stand by a counter. Place hands on the counter and move your feet back about one foot. Lift your heels as you lean forward and lower your chest toward the counter, then extend your arms and resume original upright position. Do two sets of 12 repetitions.

Dips and kicks: This exercise tones the arms and improves the range of motion in your shoulders. Increase the repetitions as you get stronger.

Advanced. Sit in a chair, feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the ground. Place your hands on the seat of the chair and shift your feet forward. Lower your glutes toward the floor, allowing the arms to bend to a 90-degree angle (no lower). Kick up one leg, then the other. Then straighten the arms as you lift your body up. Do two to three sets of 12.

Beginner. Stand in front of a counter facing away from it. Place your hands on the counter with your feet shoulder width apart and your heels flat on the floor. Lower your glutes as if toward an imaginary chair, then straighten your arms. Do three to four sets of six.

Exaggerated squat: This exercise is great for building strength and power in the legs and glutes, enhancing your stride, balance and endurance.

Advanced. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and pull your abdominal muscles in. Reach toward the ceiling as you lift your heels off the floor. Bend your knees and dig your heels into the floor as you sit down. While seated, pick both feet up then explode up and reach toward the ceiling again. Do three sets of 15.

Beginner. Place a chair or stool 2 feet away from a counter. Place your hands on the seat of the chair and stand up. Place your hands on the counter or sink to support you as you sit down. Do two to three sets of 10 repetitions.

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Bicycle crunches: This exercise helps engage abdominal muscles, building stronger core support for the lower and mid back.

Advanced. Lie on your back with knees bent. Rest your head in your hands, elbows wide. Bring the left knee toward the right elbow, while extending the right leg. Reverse. Count aloud as you perform the exercise; this ensures that you are breathing and not holding your breath. Do two to three sets of 20 reps on each side.

Beginner. Sit upright in a sturdy chair. Knees are bent, feet are flat and legs are shoulder width apart. Place your hands by your ears. Lift the left knee up toward the right elbow, then put it down Repeat on the right. Count aloud as you perform each repetition. Do two to three sets of 10 reps on each side.

Yvonne Ferguson Hardin (Fergie) is the owner of Fergie’s Instructional Training FIT in Germantown, where she specializes in educational movement programs for exercisers aged 55 and older. For more information, go to