Going commando can feel freeing (and no VPL!), but are there any risks to getting sweaty in your leggings with no barrier? You might want to let your vagina breathe when you're exercising, but is there a downside?

By By Isadora Baum
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Photo: Alena Mozhjer / Shutterstock

You might feel the urge to ditch the panties and go bare in your leggings before heading to spin class-no panty lines or wedgies to worry about-but is that really such a good idea? Do you risk any gross side effects happening down there? Will it make you smell more? Can you wear your leggings again before tossing them in the laundry? When it comes to maintaining a healthy vagina, there's no such thing as TMI.

Go Ahead, Go Commando

First, is it safe to not wear underwear when you work out? Yep. Nothing too serious health-wise is going to happen, says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an ob-gyn in New York. It boils down to an individual preference, and results can depend on the intensity of the workout, says Dr. Dweck. "Some women prefer to go commando during running, elliptical, spinning, kickboxing, etc., which affords less chafing, less visible lines in tighter workout clothes, and gives a sense of more mobility and flexibility," she says. So, if underwear and extra fabric are rubbing you the wrong way (literally) during your workout, going commando might actually have performance benefits.

More workout clothes brands are starting to considering careful placement of all sewn seams in an effort to prevent chaffing in "sensitive places," says Dr. Dweck.

What's more, if you're doing any kind of long-distance activity where you're seated-think cycling or horseback riding-proper gear can include padded shorts with a fabric that helps wicks moisture and protect against chafing in the first place. (See: Your Guide to Buying the Best Bike Shorts)

Reasons to Reconsider

An exception for when you'll probably want to keep those undies on? When you're on your period. While the leaking reasons are obvious, Dr. Dweck suggests that you might want a layer of padding anytime as an extra layer of cushion. And hey, if you want to wear underwear when you work out because you just do, at least make sure it falls under the category of best underwear for women who work out hard.

You might also notice workout-related body odor faster when you sweat panty-less. "Perspiration allows skin bacteria in hair-bearing areas, including the genital area, to cause body odor," says Dr. Dweck. With no fabric barrier between your sweaty body and your leggings, the leggings will be the place that traps the sweat that causes that specific, recognizable stench (you know the one we're talking about).

However, wearing underwear during a HIIT class isn't going to save you from the risk of yeast or bacterial infections, says Dr. Dweck, which can happen anytime you're wearing tight, sweaty clothing when exercising, whether it's underwear or leggings. "Yeast and bacteria thrive in moist, dark, warm places such as in the genital area confined in tight nonbreathable material during and after a workout," she says. So, regardless of what you're wearing or not wearing below the belt, you'll still need to change out of your leggings ASAP when finished with your workout.

The Underwear Bottom Line

The fitness commando debate is purely a personal preference decision. Just know what side effects come with both choices, and you'll make the right call for your bod and your workout.

Comments (3)

Anonymous
March 2, 2019
I had to get a male opinion and my bf says it's unequivocal: commando wins 10 to 1 and I agree. Given that all practical issues of perspiration, etc. are satisfied, the inspirational aspect of a full body definition during exercise is very positive. Whether in yoga pants or in leggings, the effect is that of a good athletic shirt in all the right places to enhance allure. My partner says that my confidence level is visibly bolstered and that I flex much more entirely in any efforts, especially when doing knee and leg exercises that accentuate all my parts, whether working my gluteus maximus, Kegels or squats. He says that it's unmistakable on both me and others he sees, the body looks and moves much more as one as opposed to fragmented limbs. And I feel it, too. Everything seems to be so much more completely connected and purposeful. I really like it a lot.
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Anonymous
March 30, 2018
i've done both and i much prefer having my underwear on. if you sweat a lot then you get a wet spot down there if you don't wear underwear, you have to wash your bottoms more often and with spandex you are more likely to end up with an infection or chafing. i just wear cotton thong underwear and yeah i have to yank on them once in a while but i much prefer that. another thing that i didn't like would be my bottoms crawling up in the front.. rather embarrassing.