Permission to Buy Workout Clothes, Granted—By Science!

Could putting on exercise gear be the secret to leveling up your workouts? Research says yes.
Published December 29, 2021

Ever felt amped to hit the gym after buying a cute pair of sneakers? It’s not a placebo effect: Researchers at Northwestern University have confirmed that what we wear can make a difference in how we feel—and what we do.

"Just wearing workout clothes can set you up for success," says kinesiologist Tiffany Bullard, PhD, WW Clinical Research Manager. “Athleisure or a new pair of walking shoes may help you feel more confident and get you excited to start moving.”

Plus, in one small study, women said that the simple act of regularly wearing gym gear helped them feel more self-assured and athletic, and therefore motivated to engage in fitness-based activities—a way of thinking that plays a major role in a concept known as “activity identity.”

“Activity identity is based on the mindset that being active is an essential part of who you are,” says Bullard. So whether you’re tending to a vegetable garden in the sunny corner of your backyard, dancing in your living room to songs from the '80s, or doing an on-demand workout in your WW app, just remember that any activity, when done consistently, is a boon for your health.

“Considering that regular exercise is one of the best predictors of long-term weight management, wearing workout clothes may help to strengthen your activity identity and get you moving more” says Bullard.

Who’s ready to start shopping? (*Raises hand.*) The key, as obvious as it may sound, is investing in comfortable, well-fitting apparel. What’s less obvious is how to ensure what you’re buying will stand up to the actual workout test—particularly, the type of activity you’re doing. Ever hiked up your pants mid-run, or had a flowy tank practically fall off during downward dog? The struggle is real.

So we asked Bullard to help ID the right gear for your activity of choice, along with our product recommendations from Lola Getts that help avoid common pitfalls. We love this brand not just for its inclusive sizing (from XS to 4X), but for its sublime knitting technology, engineered for a variety of fitness activities. No chafing, no sliding, no sports bras that didn’t get the support memo.

Of course, it takes more than a shopping spree to be more active. To create true activity identity—especially when starting from a sedentary level—it’s important to nurture how we think about ourselves (a healthy habit all on its own).

Even minor mindset shifts can make a difference in what we do, says Bullard. For example, the minute you start riding a bike, you can declare that you are a bike rider. When you take a walk around the neighborhood—boom!—you’re a walker. And that first step just might start with a new pair of leggings.