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Exercise Apparel

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD* -

Have you ever exercised wearing a cotton t-shirt and old sneakers? If so, you might have been putting yourself at risk for heat stroke or getting injured.

Cotton is not a “breathable” fabric. The clothing you wear to exercise should allow sweat to evaporate, not trap heat (like cotton). If your shoes are worn out, you could end up with painful sports injuries like tendonitis or shin splints. The right clothes can make you feel good and help you obtain the results you are looking for.


When it’s cold, wearing several layers of light clothing will permit air circulation. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer. You can usually find these shirts (made from polypropylene) in sporting-goods stores. They pull moisture away from your skin as you sweat. If you wear cotton closest to your skin, it will stay wet when you sweat, and make you very cold. The second layer should be insulating, such as a fleece. It should have a zipper, so you can vent when you warm up. You may only need two layers. If your climate is particularly windy, you may need an outer layer. The outer layer should be light, thin, and resistant to water and wind. Windbreaker jackets or pullovers are good options. You can remove it and tie it around your waist after your body heat increases.
In warmer weather women can run in a sports bra made out of Dri-Fit or Coolmax material. This material keeps the sweat away from your skin and dries very fast. Alternately, tank tops or t-shirts made from Dri-Fit material are good options to wear over a sports bra. Choose light colors to reflect heat rays. Men can wear tanks or Dri-Fit/CoolMax t-shirts in the heat, or can opt to not wear a shirt at all.


You will probably need tights or wind suit pants for your legs if you exercise outdoors during winter. They don’t tend to get as cold as your other extremities and torso. If it is extremely cold and windy, you may need to wear thermal underwear under wind-resistant pants. In the summer, however, try Dri-fit shorts that have slits on the side. These slits allow for further leg extension without your shorts riding up. Many also have underwear built into them, so you do not need to wear undergarments. This makes exercising more comfortable.
If you are participating in a sport like basketball, you may need longer shorts. If biking, wear spandex shorts. Look for the kind with cushioning. This will allow for much more comfortable bike rides.


Protect your face. Wear plenty of moisturizer and sunscreen. Make sure you protect your eyes from the wind by wearing sunglasses. If your lungs tend to get cold when you exercise in cold temperatures, try wrapping a scarf or bandana around your face and breathing through it.

The right clothes make it possible to run or walk outdoors, even when it is very frigid outside. Since most of your body heat is lost through your hands and head, wear gloves and a hat that covers your ears. Mittens are better than gloves. By clustering your fingers together, body heat helps keep them warm. Wearing mittens, however, may be inconvenient.
If you are running outdoors in the dark, always wear reflective gear. You can wear reflective tape that sticks to your clothes, blinking lights that pin to your shorts and shirt, or wear a vest.


When shopping for athletic shoes make sure they fit properly. You should have some "toe room” in front. Neither the big or little toe should extend over the side. For running shoes, make sure you have about a ½ to ¾ of an inch between your big toe and the front of the shoe. The shoes should feel snug in the heel without pinching or slipping. The inside of the shoes should be made with firm material to prevent the foot from collapsing inward. Arch supports provide good fit, support, and comfort.

When buying athletic shoes, make sure you try on several pairs. You may want to shop at an athletic store that has knowledgeable employees. When shopping for shoes, try them on in the afternoon (when your feet are biggest) and bring along the socks you will be wearing with them. You’ll need to replace your shoes every 3-9 months (300-500 miles), depending on your activity level.

One pair of athletic shoes may not be enough if you participate in several sports. Always choose the shoes that go with the sport you are playing. For example, running shoes should provide adequate cushioning for shock absorption, arch and heel support, and have padded heals. Walking shoes should have flexible soles and heel cushioning, but too much cushioning in the toe of the shoe can cause you to trip.

Shoes made for aerobics are well cushioned, have overall good support and firm yet flexible soles. Opt for the hi-top variety if you have ankle problems. There are also specialty shoes for basketball, bicycling, golf, and other sports. Just make sure the shoes you choose have enough support and stability for your activity.

*Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity with MiDieta™


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