I Never Wear Underwear to Work Out. Maybe You Shouldn’t Either

Here’s a secret: I absolutely never wear underwear to work out.

Is that gross? I never thought so, but then I mentioned this in the Glamour office the other day, and everyone stared at me wide-eyed. Before that moment I’d never considered anyone would wear underwear to work out. To me, that is the gross concept. Like, doesn’t it get all sweaty? All bunched up? No thanks, I’ll pass.

But I was alone on the island for commando exercisers. For research, I decided to poll the office anonymously to get everyone’s habits and take on the subject. The results, to me, were stunning.

Every single other person gave a resounding yes. They wore underwear to work out and were horrified at the suggestion that they wouldn’t.

“I’ve tried not wearing underwear, but the sweat stain on my leggings was truly egregious,” wrote one of my colleagues, with another one saying, “I can’t imagine not.” One of my (few) male colleagues pointed out that he thinks he “would be arrested if I didn’t,” which, fair. “I don’t think you necessarily need to wear underwear, but I like to feel a barrier so I will usually wear something,” pointed out another. One succinctly wrote: “Um, ew.”

“I feel like I get sweatier without it!!!” wrote another colleague.

The lone person who was somewhat on my team said that they only do “sometimes.” “If I’m already wearing underwear from the day, then I’ll wear it to the gym,” they said. “But if it’s the first thing I do in the morning, then probably not because I don’t want to waste a clean pair just to take a shower after the gym.”

How could I be so in the minority here? For me, putting on a pair of workout shorts or leggings is the same as underwear. I change them once I shower, so why would I need underwear? And don’t you just wash them every time anyway? Plus, my main exercise of choice is running, and many running shorts have little briefs built in (that may be when I got into the commando habit). So you’re telling me I should wear underwear under underwear? That’s just silly.

But I am a journalist after all, so I decided to reach out to an expert to weigh in. Am I somehow harming my vaginal health by not wearing underwear to work out? Or are my colleagues?

I consulted Melanie Bone, MD, an ob-gyn and the US medical director at the gynecological health company Daye, and asked her to please give us the answer as it pertains to women’s health. And folks, read ’em and weep.

“In general, I recommend not wearing underwear during workouts if possible,” Dr. Bone tells me over email. I’ve never felt more vindicated in my life!

Here’s why, according to Dr. Bone: Our vaginal area contains a delicate balance of bacteria, and this balance can be disrupted when it becomes warm and moist (ew) during a workout. If you’re wearing underwear, that can make it even worse.

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