Playing Dress-Up for the Gym

The Positive Effects of Dressing Up to Work Out

Let’s face it. Yoga pants are expensive. Like, charge-it-to-the-credit-card, eating-PB&J-for-the-next-month kind of expensive. But ah, the eternal debate: Are they worth it? Research says they could be. But not necessarily due to the steep price tag, but because of the feeling that comes home with it.

Whether it’s dabbing on the slightest bit of mascara for spin class, or breaking out a favorite muscle tee for an extra edge in the weight room, athletes care what they look like. And they’re not wrong.

Remember the mantras your mom kept repeating that you didn’t listen to? “Dress for success.” “If you look good, you feel good,” and so on and so forth. The truth is, she wasn’t that far off. In fact, according to the Enclothed Cognition study, she knew what she was talking about.

Based on a 2012 study, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine scientists Adam D. Galinsky and Hajo Adam gave half of their participants lab coats and asked both groups to perform attention-related tasks. They found that participants wearing lab coats performed tasks significantly better than those without.

According to Adam, “It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing." And more than just fueling epic workouts, athletic wear can also motivate you to get to the gym in the first place  “I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out," Adam says. 

So, what’s the best clothing to wear with this newfound knowledge? First off, ditch the cotton. Your favorite vintage t-shirt may feel amazing, but it traps in sweat without allowing your skin to breathe. Instead, trade it for sports apparel made from synthetic fibers. These materials allow a greater range of motion for whatever the workout, and will wick away sweat to help regulate body temperature.

And even though those $100 leggings may make you feel like an Olympic athlete, know that there are athletic lines out there that can make you look good and push you harder – without breaking the bank.