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While comfort is key when working out, for women there are health benefits in choosing the right underwear. You can reduce your risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections by wearing underwear that discourages the growth of bacteria. Your workout underwear needs to be made of breathable materials with moisture-wicking capabilities to effectively handle sweat while not constricting movement. Consider the type of exercise you engage in and weather conditions when choosing underwear -- the style best for your winter morning jog may not be the wisest choice for your hot yoga session.
Underwear that is breathable allows for efficient air flow, keeping you drier as you work up a sweat. Materials like 100-percent cotton have outlets for sweat moisture to escape and evaporate. Microfiber underwear, typically made of polyester blended with other synthetic materials, like nylon and spandex, spreads moisture over a large area allowing for quicker drying time and and making the underwear more breathable. Underwear with built-in mesh panels helps excess moisture evaporate quickly. Avoid bulky waistbands which cause excess sweat to pool around your waistline.
Underwear made of wicking material -- like synthetics, treated nylon and wool -- are better than cotton for moisture absorption. Wicking draws moisture away from your body while drying quickly, helping to keep your body temperature stable while exercising outdoors. Polyester is one of the most common wicking materials used in exercise clothing and may be blended with a synthetic like spandex. Merino wool contains natural wicking and antibacterial properties and will keep you warm during the winter months, though the material is surprisingly lightweight and comfortable to wear all year long. For extra protection, look for workout underwear with a liner made of a wicking material to reduce excess moisture.
For the most comfortable fit, avoid dense material with poor ventilation and select form-fitting underwear made from sheer material with as few seams as possible. Contoured and seamless underwear reduces chafing when engaging in repetitive motion exercise, like running or cycling. Wear clinging, micro-thin underwear that will not ride up and distract you while performing intricate yoga poses and will help you to avoid the dreaded panty line under snug-fitting yoga pants.
Nylon underwear is comfortable and form-fitting but retains heat and moisture making it a poor choice for exercising. If you choose to wear nylon underwear while exercising, look for the style with the moisture-wicking liner insert. Treated silk underwear is efficient at wicking but retains heat, so it is not the best choice when exercising outdoors in hot weather. While a thong might help you avoid the dreaded panty line while wearing snug workout clothing, this style of underwear increases your risk of vaginal infection, regardless of the material it is made from. The thong design makes it easier for rectal bacteria to reach your vaginal area, increasing your risk of yeast infections and urinary tract infections.