Should You Exercise Without Underwear?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Have you ever pulled on a pair of compression leggings, only to find your underwear uncomfortably bunched or twisted? Or worried that your panty lines might be visible to the person behind you in yoga class? Maybe you're just tired of stopping to make not-so-subtle adjustments during your run or walk. Whether it's due to comfort, aesthetics or ventilation, the "unmentionable" question may have crossed your mind at some point. And it's about to get, well, mentioned: Do you really need to wear underwear while working out, or is it ever okay to go commando?
With advances in today's high-tech workout gear, stepping out sans skivvies is a lot more acceptable—and comfortable—than it used to be. Many styles of fitness leggings are designed with form-fitting, seamless fabrics and opaque panels, allowing you to safely ditch the drawers without worrying about any uncomfortable chafing or embarrassing peek-a-boo moments. Similarly, many types of running shorts come with a built-in liner that pretty much does the job of underwear, minimizing any chances of wardrobe malfunctions during stretching time.
Fitness trainer Rui Li is one of the many who chooses not to wear underwear underneath her workout pants. "I don't find it necessary, and I'm not a fan of the visible panty line through the spandex," she says. "Many women will often choose thong underwear [to avoid lines], which I'm always surprised by, because how comfortable is a constant wedgie?"
As a runner, Matt Fitzgerald, author of "The Endurance Diet," points out that nearly all running shorts come with a built-in liner, and adds that "riding a bike with underwear under your bike shorts would be insane. " Acting as a representative of the male perspective on the to-wear-or-not-to-wear dilemma, Fitzgerald says that the only exercise in which he does sometimes wear underwear is weightlifting because it doesn't generate as must sweat and it's not a high-friction, repetitive-motion activity. "For me, it's really a comfort question," he says. "If you can exercise comfortably with underwear under whatever else you're wearing, there's no harm in it. But standard underwear types, such as cotton briefs, are not very comfortable in most activities because they hold moisture and exacerbate friction."
That said, moisture and heat are a recipe for bacterial and yeast infections, so it's important to choose workout bottoms with wicking fabrics to keep you dry down there. Even with the right fabrics, some degree of sweat is inevitable, so try to change and shower or rinse off as quickly as possible after exercising. And, of course, wash and dry your pants or shorts before wearing them for the next session.      
If you're still unsure about going commando for fear of someone getting a glimpse of your goods, rest assured that there are plenty of leggings designed to keep everything under wraps. For peace of mind, try on your pants at home and do a "flash test" with a trusted loved one to ensure that you can do even the deepest squat without risking any indecent exposure.
Of course, if you suffer from any type of exercise-induced incontinence—you know, when a leaky bladder has you avoiding jumping jacks like the plague—going panty-free may not be a possibility. In that case, you may want to choose underwear designed to absorb leaks or consider wearing a liner during workouts.

Is Commando a No-Go?

Still can't wrap your head around eliminating that lower layer? No problem—there are plenty of comfortable, hygienic underwear options designed specifically for working out. Cotton isn’t a terrible choice, but there are also options made from high-tech, antimicrobial fabrics that will move with you, wick away moisture and boost the freshness factor.
"Breathability is really important, because of the billions of microorganisms that live in harmony, keeping each other in check in the nether regions," Li says. "Should oxygen be restricted, it will likely kill off some forms of organisms while encouraging the growth of others, thereby upsetting the delicate ecosystem. Additionally, any kind of slight rubbing from the material will turn into a major rash after however many miles you've walked or run, [which is not only] physically uncomfortable, but can cause ingrown hairs and leave you more exposed to infections."
Just as with new fitness apparel and shoes, be sure to test out your new workout underwear before wearing them to a race or a long boot camp class.
So, do you or don't you? If you don't wear underwear during workouts, what’s your reason?  

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Walmart has hanes underwear that is breathable and microfibre. I did think that wearing underwear under wicking clothes seemed counter intuitive. But happy that the industry caught on. Report
I have never thought of not wearing underwear when working out, it doesn't bother me to wear them so "if it ain't broke then it don't need fixing" as my dad used to say.
Whatever works for a person and makes them comfortable, got to get that exercise in! Report
My Granny taught me to never leave home without wearing clean underwear and this is a practice that I continue to this day. As with anything, it's a personal choice of the individual. Thanks for the article! Report
I’ve been going commando now for years and my workouts have never been better! One of the best choices I’ve made since choosing to workout! Report
to each his own you have a choice Report
interesting . I feel undressed without undergarments Report
I have to have underwear. I can't go commando. But I do like the breathable underwear. Make sure your underwear fit. Don't try to squeeze into a smaller size Report
I'm a undergarment wearing athlete for comfort and safety reasons. No wedges here, quite interesting. Sometimes, not wearing can cause a distraction, hum Report
Now, this is something I never thought about before this. Report
No suggestions for men?? Report
Nope, not a chance! Report
Comfort when exercising is a must--the workouts can be hard/challenging enough on their own without an outfit causing trouble.
Some activities just require specialty attire, one of those is long-distance cycling--there are reasons cycling shorts exist. They may make little difference for the shorter distance more casual cyclist but are an absolute must for long, long rides. Not just the shorts but also some chaffing prevention like BodyGlide for cyclist.
As someone who hates having to stop and readjust panties that have trouble keeping up with running and fast walking, I've invested in sports leggings and shorts that either have a special liner or are not see-through. No sense in being forced to deal with undergarments that don't measure up.
Glad SparkPeople covered this topic! It's an important one. Report
Great info.....Only wear what you need.... Report
I go commando while working out. Report
If it works for you.. but for me? No thank you.
I consider panties/ bra my 'support staff.' Report
I always ride bike commando...wouldnt think of wearing an additional layer, and for what? With all the great options we have out there built to accommodate singularly there is no need for a second layer. Unless of course someone wants to bear the pain and not risk the shame? Report
Interesting article Report
Hands breathable. Ahhhhhhh Report
never thought about going without until article...LOL Report
I go commando while working out! Report
I have to wear underwear due to leakage. Thank you for giving some suggestions on better underwear choices for exercise. Report
Had to laugh at the "constant wedgie" comment in the article. There are some great micro-fiber panties, no lines, no bunching up, they stay where you put them. Bought mine at Walmart, made by Hanes. Report
This is an interesting topic... Report
Do what's more comfortable for you. This is not an issue or concern for me. It is an interesting article.

I guess I never thought about this before reading this article, but I think I will stick to wearing my undies. Report
Just never thought of it but maybe teresting Report
I have never done this one or even thought about doing it. Not for me! Report
interesting Report
Gee! Report
You do whats right for you in my opinion. For me, I like underwear to absorb any moisture. Now pants on the other hand? I'm always pulling them up. Can we do away with them??? :) Report
Interesting article, something I never thought about. Report
Interesting article! Report
something i neber thought of Report
something i neber thought of Report
interesting article... Report
some of the comments are more interesting than the article Report
Something to consider! Report
Thanks for this article, especially for including the practical logic supporting the "not-so-puritanically-acceptable" choice! It seems that most of us are just so conditioned to wearing underwear that we don't even think about it --- and haven't ever wondered what the original reasoning was for underwear (protecting outer clothing from less-than-clean bodies, so that the outer clothing could be laundered less often). Since bathing and laundering habits have changed to the point that underwear is no longer required for its original use, we should be stopping to consider what our options are and then logically choose what is best for ourselves.

Realistically, I can't imagine spending the money for activity-specific clothing made of moisture-wicking / heat shedding / odour and bacteria controlling fabrics --- and then totally negating all of the properties of them by wearing non-performance panties underneath. Adding the additional cost of purchasing and laundering unnecessary panties actually made with the same level of performance fabrics doesn't seem any more sensible - especially when there is no benefit to wearing them, and can be some detriment (eg. higher odds of chafing, movement restriction, loss of some moisture wicking properties and breathability due to added tight layers). Considering the special laundering requirements of many performance fabrics, the extra cost in both money and time to add a non-essential layer seems pretty hard to justify for me. Report
I cannot imagine going without underwear, sounds disgusting. Report
Hahahahaha! SP, you gave me my laugh for the day. Thank you for breaking out of your normal article types and exploring this topic - something I wouldn't have thought to bring up. I will continue to wear underwear pretty much all the time, including while working out. And no need for fancy workout undies either, a good pair of all-purpose undies will do. Report
Wearing underwear is insane? A thong that is the correct size does not cause a wedgie. Wear or not wear, what you want. It's all about comfort. If I want to wear my granny panties, I'm wearing them. Insane or not. Report
good to know info Report
Interesting article!!! Report
interesting article Report
interesting Report