An OB/GYN helps us get to the bottom of things.
Photo source, above image
If you’re like most women, you probably don’t give much thought into the topic of wearing, or not wearing, underwear while working out. So you might be surprised to find out that you should – and for good reason. The decision of donning a pair of skivvies vs. going commando while working up a sweat can mean the difference between moisture and bacteria staying at bay, or developing into a workout-inhibiting UTI, yeast infection, or further nether-region unpleasantry. To get to the bottom of things (pun intended), we spoke with Dr. Yvonne Bohn, OB/GYN and spokesperson for leading urinary health brand Cystex. Here, Dr. Bohn helps us bust myth vs. fact so you can hit the gym (and otherwise) while keeping your lady parts just as fit.
Can the decision of wearing, or not wearing, underwear while working out:
a) Increase the chance of contracting a yeast infection or UTI?
“Absolutely. It’s surprising for many women, but the clothes or underwear you wear (especially to the gym) can affect your health and may increase the chance of infection. When we exercise moisture builds up in our groin, vaginal and rectal areas. Moisture and warmth make it easier for yeast and bacteria to grow. Clothing that eliminates the ability for your skin to dry increases moisture and hence can increase bacterial overgrowth. If yeast or bacteria get into your bladder this increases the chance of a urinary tract infection if the bacteria is not eliminated from the urinary tract quickly. Wearing cotton underwear under gym clothes, wearing gym clothes that have the moisture-wicking material known as “quick dry” or getting out of tight exercise pants as quickly as possible reduces these risks.”
b) Increase the chance of developing a rash or other skin condition?
“Yes. If there is more moisture on your skin for prolonged periods of time, “skin yeast” or tinea grows causing the skin to get what looks like a diaper rash – red, irritated, broken itchy skin.”
If women ARE wearing underwear while working out:
a) Are certain silhouettes better than others? Any women should absolutely avoid?
“When it comes to style, choose a boyshort over a thong because this will help with air circulation. Thongs and other tight underwear will lock moisture in and promote bacterial growth. Think about it: when you’re working hard tight fitting thongs move back and forth, which can cause tears in the delicate tissues of the vagina and urethra leading to bacterial infections, fissures and possibly urinary tract irritation.”
b) What fabrications should women be wearing, and what fabrications should women not be wearing?
“Always go for cotton underwear over silk or polyester fabrics as they can trap moisture and bacteria, increasing the risk of getting an infection. Cotton is much more breathable.”
[Related: Should You Wear Your Bra While Sleeping?]
Overall, would you say it’s healthier to wear or not wear underwear while working out?
“Overall, it depends on the type of workout and the clothes you have. If you have shorts with built-in underwear, then you can opt for not wearing any. If you’re wearing workout pants with quick dry (or moisture-wicking) fabric you may also get by without underwear. But, if you’re wearing tight yoga pants without any sort of protection “down there” it’s best to put on a pair of workout-appropriate underwear to keep moisture in check, and ensure that the material from your pants isn’t rubbing right up against your skin.”
If you are opting to don underwear while working out, here are a few sweat-approved picks to consider:
Row 1, from left:
Skin Pima Cotton Meryl Brief in Black ($26.00)
AnaOno “Jennifer” Bamboo Boyshort in Clay ($22.00)
Fruit of the Loom Ladies’ Cotton Hipsters, 4-pack ($9.94)
Row 2, from left:
Under Armour Cotton-Lined Pure Stretch Hipster in Petal Pink ($12.00)
Naked Luxury Modal Hipster in Lantana ($18.00)
Knockout Panties Supima Cotton Brief in Nude ($28.00 – $30.00)