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The best exercise clothes

With so much high-priced workout gear available, what should you actually wear when you exercise?

Ignore the marketing campaigns and expensive accessories, says Joel Hardwick, ACSM EP-C, EIM2, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center. Finding the best exercise outfit is usually simple: Wear clothes that fit well, allow you to move and are weather-appropriate.

Here’s more on how to dress for success at the gym and everywhere else you exercise.

How should workout clothes fit?

“You want to choose something that is neither too tight nor too baggy,” Hardwick says. “You should feel comfortable.”

If your clothes are too tight, they’ll restrict movement, he points out. Baggy clothing can be dangerous for activities like cycling, and it probably won’t make you feel very good about yourself.

“When clothes are too baggy, in my experience, you feel insecure about your body,” Hardwick explains. That feeling can ultimately impact performance.

The difference between natural and synthetic fibers

Although you may prefer natural fabrics like cotton in your everyday life, exercise calls for fibers that breathe well, Hardwick says. Choose synthetic fibers that wick moisture.

If you exercise outside during colder months, avoid layering too much and make sure to stick with those same specialty fibers. Multiple layers of cotton or wool will allow sweat to seep into your clothes, Hardwick says, and chilly or windy weather will turn that sweat cold – making your body even colder.

Try a top with synthetic fibers and maybe a light jacket over that, Hardwick suggests.

Choosing the right workout sneakers

Specialty sneakers are everywhere these days, but if you’re just starting a new routine, it’s best to wear sneakers that are cross-functional.

Cross-training sneakers can be a great option, Hardwick says, particularly if you’re trying something new. They’ll give you the support you need for many surfaces and activities.  

“It’s best not to get caught up in all these choices,” Hardwick says.

No matter which sneakers you choose, it’s important to find a pair that fits well. Hardwick recommends getting your feet and gait properly assessed at a shoe store.

The most helpful accessories

Want a step-counter? Go ahead and buy one, Hardwick says. Just don’t spend a fortune on high-end watches that claim to track heart rate, sleep quality and everything in between.

For one thing, Hardwick says, these watches usually aren’t as accurate as they claim. Even if they are, you may not find much value in measures like heart rate if you aren’t sure what’s best for your body.

“You don’t need to have something that’s really fancy,” Hardwick says. “You just need something that will get you through your workout.”

It’s practical advice that applies to most workout gear.

“If it’s expensive,” Hardwick says, “it’s not worth it.”

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