Does workout wear really make a difference? Today’s activewear industry generates almost $200 billion per year in total sales (Shahbandeh, 2021). You may choose to purchase athletic wear because it is super cute or because it will potentially push you to work out more often or provide support and safety when exercising. There are no right or wrong answers for why you buy workout clothes, however with newer trends of stylish fit wear, it may help to boost self-esteem, add more support to your workout, protect you from environments that have the potential to add unwanted stress to the body, and lastly it may increase your motivation to make your fitness dreams a reality!
The Top Five Reasons to Style Up Your Fitness Clothing
Being protected is critical when you are exercising outside in the heat or in cold weather. Activewear can provide comfort and protection no matter the weather, allowing us to exercise even during less than ideal conditions. It is important to remain comfortable when working out, especially in areas around the globe that have extremely high and low temperatures in order to stay healthy and happy. One of the most important goals for fitness clothing is the regulation of body temperature in both heat and cold stress. Brands have made exercising in the heat safer with microfiber polyester or dri-fit apparel that feels light and keeps the body from feeling sticky and sweaty during intense workouts in hot temperatures. This issue is critical because working out in heat can cause you to increase your body’s temperature to unsafe levels leading to potential conditions such as heat rash, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke. Research has shown that synthetic fabrics or polyester-blend fabrics demonstrate greater sweating efficiency and less water regain than cotton or cotton-blend material (Brazaitis et al., 2010) which allows you to dissipate heat from the body while working out. Another reason to add microfiber polyester clothing to sunny workout days is it not only helps push away sweat but adds protection from UV rays!
On the other hand, it is also important to wear clothes that will prevent complications such as hypothermia and frostbite in cooler or wetter climates. Many clothing brands provide a waterproof collection for rainy, chilly morning workouts with light, cozy jackets that make warming up much easier. Research suggests that layering is key to staying warm during inclement weather. Layering has major effects on properties such as permeability to air and water vapor, and insulation (Laing et al., 2011). When the weather gets cold or damp, stack on layers with a moisture wicking base layer to get rid of sweat easier and then add a light layer on top for extra warmth.
Many people believe that wearing supportive or compression athletic wear during training improves their workouts or helps with their recovery, however research findings are conflicting. According to a study by Sperlich et al. (2013), it was found that there was no difference with an increase in blood flow to the muscle to aid in recovery when people wore compression pants vs. regular leggings following high intensity training while a meta-analysis by Brown et al. (2017) found that compression garments would seem to be most effective for recovery from resistance exercise and cycling. The case with conflicting results may have to do with the research methodology itself, for example, different garments were used for studies ranging from full body compression garments to only a compression sleeve, differing types of exercise modes as well as varying amounts of compression each garment provided. With this lack of consistency in the research findings as to whether compression garments are beneficial or not, if you like them wear them!
On the other hand, compression clothing that is known to be beneficial are supportive sports bras. They are critical for reducing exercise-induced breast pain as the breasts have no substantial anatomical support and will move in conjunction with the body during activities such as jumping or running. Wearing a regular bra while exercising may lead to pain and discomfort as well as possible injuries due to the lack of support they provide during exercise. Research consistently shows that breast movement decreases as the level of support increase which then decreases rating of exercise induced breast pain (McGhee, D. and Steele, J., 2020). Check out our Blog “Trounce the Bounce” for more information, publishing on August 15, 2021.
Safety is Key
Reflective or high visibility clothing is critical for individuals who exercise during low light or darkness. Clothing that offers a way for cars to see you while you are outside walking, cycling, or running can protect you from injury or even death. Research suggests that cyclists are more than 50% less likely to be involved in a collision with a motor vehicle when wearing high-visibility clothing (Lahrmann, H. et al, 2018). Reflective/ high visibility jackets, leggings, shorts, hats, and shirts will help to keep you out of harm’s way during those early morning or late evening workouts.
Just putting on your favorite soft, cute leggings will take you one step closer to working out. Many people use their workout clothing as a way to kick-start their day. There are many ways to pump yourself up before a workout and finding a piece of your favorite clothing and putting it on just might be the first step. A non-peer-reviewed survey completed by Barbell Apparel showed that nine out of ten gym-goers agreed that simply putting on their gym clothing helped them feel motivated to go workout even when they did not feel up to it before. The same survey revealed that 85% of people reported that having “cool looking” gym clothes gave them more confidence in the gym. (Schmall 2018). Now suit up, embrace your energy, and be electric in your workout!
It is the worst when you find cute leggings and you don’t realize that they are completely see-through until someone at the gym lets you know that your backside is showing. So, don’t forget the squat test before you purchase those super cute leggings! By squatting or bending over in a well-lit area you will know if the fabric of the leggings is too sheer when you move in them. If you cannot see through them then they are safe to wear when working out around others. Having comfy, cute and squat test approved leggings is a triple win!
You are never too old to wear a cute pair of leggings or top that is out of your “norm”. Workout wear is meant for you to feel beautiful and confident in clothing that best describes you. If you are asking yourself ‘who do I think I am wearing this piece of clothing, am I just trying to fit in with what society is doing?’ instead try asking yourself ‘what is my motivation behind wearing these leggings or this new cute sports bra?’ Each piece of clothing represents a reason behind wearing it such as a protection, safety, a boost of confidence, taking a step out of your comfort zone, matching with a friend who you work out with or just because you want to have a change in your life. Step out of your comfort zone and release the uncertainty from within, put on that sassy sports bra or lovely leggings and wear them with confidence!
Brazaitis, M., et al. (2010). The effect of two kinds of T-shirts on physiological and psychological thermal responses during exercise and recovery, Applied Ergonomics, 42 (1), 46-51.
Brown, F. et al. (2017). Compression garments and recovery from exercise: A meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 47, 2245–2267.
Lahrmann, H., Madsen, T. K., Olesen, A. V., Madsen, J. C., & Hels, T. (2018). The effect of a yellow bicycle jacket on cyclist accidents. Safety Science, 108, 209–217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2017.08.001
Laing, RM, MacRae, BA, Wilson, CA, & Niven, BE. (2011). Layering of fabrics in laboratory tests to reflect combinations as outdoor apparel. Textile Research Journal, 81(17):1828-1842.
McGhee, D. E., & Steele, J. R. (2020). Biomechanics of Breast Support for Active Women. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 48(3), 99–109. https://doi.org/10.1249/jes.0000000000000221
Schmall, T. (2018, April 9). The secret to getting fit is getting new clothes, study finds. digitalhub. https://www.swnsdigital.com/2018/04/the-secret-to-getting-fit-is-getting-new-clothes-study-finds/.
Shahbandeh, M. (January 11, 2021). Total Revenue of the Global Sports Apparel Market From 2012 to 2025 (in billion U.S. dollars https://www.statista.com/statistics/254489/total-revenue-of-the-global-sports-apparel-market/.
Sperlich, B., Born, D.-P., Kaskinoro, K., Kalliokoski, K. K., & Laaksonen, M. S. (2013). Squeezing the Muscle: Compression Clothing and Muscle Metabolism during Recovery from High Intensity Exercise. PLoS ONE, 8(4).
Brooklin Mize, B.S. is a recent graduate in the fitness option at Long Beach State University. Her goal is to become a nurse, specializing in labor and delivery.