I bet when you're out for a run, doing a HIIT workout, or lifting weights, you're not like "Hmm, I wonder how my vagina is doing?" I mean, it's just kind of there, doing it's thing while you do yours. But if you don't take a few precautions, like wearing clean workout clothes and showering after your sweat session, you could end up with an uncomfortable vaginal infection. Another thing that board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist Jodie Horton, MD, said you should do is not wear underwear when you exercise. Say what?
Why You Shouldn't Wear Underwear When Working Out
Go commando?! Dr. Horton explained to POPSUGAR why she recommends not wearing underwear when working out. "The vagina has normal [good] bacteria that prevents the overgrowth of bad bacteria like bacterial vaginosis and yeast. However, a warm wet environment after a sweat sesh can be a breeding ground for infection," she said. Wearing underwear adds another layer that can trap moisture and cause irritation, itching, and burning.
This includes thongs — ditch them, Dr. Horton said. "The thong's friction and movement can introduce E. coli from the anus into the vagina and lead to potential urinary and vaginal infections," she said.
Women wear workout clothes, even if they have no plans to work out, and Dr. Horton said whether you plan to work out or just lounge, "I recommend going commando and ditch the underwear." And no matter what type of workout and how long you plan to exercise, it's always best to wear breathable, moisture-wicking fabric with a cotton crotch to allow airflow.
"Materials like nylon and lycra can trap moisture and heat, which is a breeding ground for infections," Dr. Horton said. She added that cotton and seamless workout gear are going to be the most vagina-friendly, and can better prevent chafing and irritation, especially if you're wearing tight leggings. If you prefer shorts, wear ones with the underwear built in.
What If You're More Comfortable Wearing Underwear When You Work Out?
Not into going bare under your workout bottoms? While cotton underwear isn't a good choice because it stays wet, Dr. Horton said that moisture-wicking underwear is a great option. These underwear are usually lighter than your regular pair of undies and are generally made of polyester, nylon, or bamboo. She said, "Besides absorbing moisture and allowing the vagina to stay dry, it can also help you cool down and regulate your body temperature according to one European study."
As soon as you finish your workout, change your clothes. Always keep clean, dry clothes with you to change into afterward. If you have time, take a shower immediately after working out. Wash the vulva with warm water and mild fragrance-free soap, and gently pat the vagina dry before putting new clothes on. In a hurry? Keep vaginal wipes, like Love Wellness's Do It All Wipes, handy in your gym bag or bathroom.