By Lisa Katz

When it comes to wearing underwear while exercising, there seem to be a number of different opinions out there. Some feel that wearing underwear is truly bothersome, as they tend to shift during a workout. Others find the idea of not wearing underwear while exercising absolutely unimaginable. So, is it healthier to wear underwear or go commando?

The argument against underwear

If you feel more comfortable exercising without underwear, you are not alone. Many fitness brands have even started to add built-in underwear or even a little cotton panel in their shorts and pants to take the place of underwear. Just having that little material will definitely help reduce any sweat. That said, as long as you wear some bottoms with moisture-wicking fabric, you could feel secure to go bare without worrying.

The argument for underwear

For women

Bacteria and yeast thrive in warm environments. Wearing underwear offers another layer to catch all of the sweat or wetness associated with exercise. Without them, the possibility of a yeast infection or a urinary tract infection is higher. Skipping underwear during a workout can lend itself to vaginal irritations. Without them, there could be quite a bit of friction and rubbing, and nobody likes that!

Most women sweat to some degree while working out and that can lead to discharge. Some women also experience a little incontinence while exercising. Having that extra layer of clothing may help you feel cleaner.

For men

Men may experience similar discomfort from excessive perspiration while exercising, especially if you have decided to forego underwear. This can lead to jock itch, a red, itchy rash. Adding a little baby powder in your workout bottoms may help, but wearing underwear is more helpful.

What to do?

Whether you prefer to wear underwear or not while you exercise is completely up to you. Yes, there are a few health risks to consider when making your decision. Cleanliness is definitely the No. 1 concern to keep in mind. “The use of underwear while exercising is a matter of personal preference,” said Pamela Perry, personal trainer and manager of Zen Fitness. “The important factor to remember is that the material next to your skin (be it underwear, compression pants or gym shorts) should be breathable, with moisture-wicking capabilities.”

Regardless of your preferences, the best way to prevent irritations and infections is to change out of sweaty clothes as soon as you can and take a shower. Not only is it healthier but you will smell good, too!

Which underwear style is ideal to wear during a workout?

Thongs and cheekies may not leave women with visible panty lines, but both of those styles typically fit tighter than other types of underwear and often move around. Consider a style that tends to stay put, like bikini, boy short or hip hugger.

David Bank, M.D., founder and director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery, explained that your choice of underwear style is crucial when it comes to your workout gear. Thongs “…tend to slide back and forth while you exercise,” said Dr. Bank. “All of this friction and heat can lead to UTI’s (urinary tract infections) and vaginal bacterial infections, regardless of the fabric.”

The key for men is to look for workout bottoms or underwear that provide support without being too constrictive. Most running shorts offer built-in support, but if not, consider wearing boxer briefs or trunks.

Which underwear material is best to wear during a workout?

Cotton seems to be the most exercise-friendly material to wear, as it is completely breathable and lightweight. Satin and lace often rub and cause irritation and neither one is a breathable material. These days you can actually find underwear that is moisture or sweat wicking and made to be worn specifically during exercise. This option is definitely one of the best!