by Ted Lane
The lockdown workout boom shows no sign of slowing down. According to research published in the journal Appetite, 45% of adults began exercising more frequently during the pandemic. And good on them, might we add. But there was more to it than filling the hours between baking banana bread and binge-watching Tiger King. Training became an essential outlet. The same study also revealed that 63% of people pulling on their workout leggings, or deciding on what top to wear running, said exercise was important for their mental health.
Whatever the laudable launchpad into living the sweatlife, one thing is clear – that’s a lot of people who are new to working out. With that comes a host of fascinating gym habits to investigate. And so, call us biased, but there was only one logical place to start. What do all these newbies do with their kit?
Does everyone, as you might hope, rigorously soak themselves and their gear after every HIIT session? (Not even close.) Or are there some people nervously scrolling to see if they’re the only ones sitting in sweaty kit for hours after a session?
The answer is somewhere in the middle. Read on to see how your hygiene habits compare to the rest of the UK, and find out why not washing your sports bras, or running shorts after every workout might not be the dirty little secret you think it is.
Before we check in on your workout clothes, let’s take a closer look at you. According to Brian Sansoni of the American Cleaning Institute, without washing, over time, germs will multiply and can cause bacterial and fungal infections. Getting sweaty clothes off your skin quickly post-workout is the simplest way to avoid problems. Which means some people need to update their habits…
The average person stays in their gym kit for 48 mins after a workout.
- 5% or (1 in 20) of those who train stay in workout wear for up to 4 hours afterwards.
- 23% of people don’t wash after every workout. The most common reason is that it’s been low-impact and they haven’t been sweating.
- More than 1 in 10 (13%) of those who don’t wash after a workout skip it simply because they’re not seeing anybody that day.
- After a workout, 47% of men always wash their hair. That’s significantly higher than the 21% of women.
- However, 85% of women always wash their body after every workout versus 78% of men.
So now we know about how often UK gym-goers are hitting the showers, what about your kit? Straight in the washing machine or a weekend spent crumpled in the bottom of your gym bag?
- 39% of people choose to not wash their gym kit after working out as they don’t think it smells or needs washing.
- Only half (54%) of people wash their workout clothes after every workout to avoid body odour.
- 12% say they don’t wash workout wear after working out because it’s too much effort.
- Only 11% of people wash workout wear after every workout because “I feel like I should wash it as I’ve worn it once.”
Before you get too grossed out, let’s make something clear. Some people’s reasoning for not washing kit goes beyond laziness, forgetfulness or a laissez faire attitude to B.O. As our survey will reveal – for many it’s becoming a green issue.
If you’re working out five times a week, and for every 30-minute flow another full set of kit gets added to the washing pile, you’re nearly doubling the number of spin cycles compared to someone who doesn’t train. That adds up.
An estimated 40% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from households, according to the Committee on Climate Change. Wet appliances account for nearly 10 per cent of a typical household’s energy bills. And it’s estimated that taking steps to save energy at home could reduce your emissions by 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per year.
And some have already adopted the trend, according to our survey:
- Almost one fifth (19%) of people don’t wash workout wear after every session to save on energy and water bills. The same percentage of people again do so specifically to help the environment.
- In addition, one fifth (21%) of people don’t wash workout wear after training to maintain the quality of their kit for longer. Because the longer kit lasts, the less you have to buy and so overall consumption reduces.
The issue isn’t as clean cut as you might have first imagined, then. And so, while good hygiene is undeniably important, filling your gym wardrobe with items that can keep up with your training regimen and don’t need to be washed after every rep, might just be the smartest new way to reduce your footprint.
Who knew your next downward dog or clean and jerk could be eco-friendly?
If you are someone who would prefer not to rely on washing their kit after each workout, there are two pieces of lululemon clothing technology that can help you out.
The science of smelling clean, Silverescent technology, powered by X-STATIC® is a core component for many products within lululemon training and run categories. This exclusive fabric technology, along with the No-Stink Zinc™ treatment of clothing fibres, prevents the growth of odour-causing bacteria.
Considering 86% of our survey respondents agreed that “when buying workout wear, the type of fabric it is made from influences your purchase decision,” checking for this tech on the label is a smart place to start.
Clearly, not all workouts are equal. A blanket rule for washing kit after every workout isn’t necessary. No matter how much it hurts, 15 minutes of recovery on the foam roller won’t break a sweat. From our survey, plenty are already catching on to this. Follow their lead.
- 62% of people consider not washing after yoga or Pilates.
- 27% of people wouldn’t wash workout wear after weightlifting or a resistance band workout.
- One in ten (10%) wouldn’t wash workout wear after a run. (We hope it didn’t include hill sprints!)
- 28% would consider not washing workout wear after a low intensity workout.
Lastly, what about individual pieces of kit? The results are more varied than you might think. Far from being a “strip off and shove it in the wash basket” society, we in the UK are far more measured in our approach. Here are the ins and outs.
- One in five (20%) wash a sports bra only after every second workout, one in ten (10%) wash theirs after every three workouts.
- Most people wash their training T-shirt after every workout, but 18% wash it after every second wear.
- Almost 3 in 10 (29%) wear leggings, shorts, or joggers for two workouts before washing, 16% wear them three times. 9% wear leggings, shorts, or joggers for <i>five<i> workouts before washing!
- 5% of people that workout wear socks for two sessions before washing.
A. Garments should be washed when the guest considers it soiled, which is going to be different for every person. The important thing to note is all the factors that can make that garment soil more quickly.
- What activity it is worn for? Post-10K kit will need a wash. Use it for morning yin yoga and it can last another day.
- Characteristics of the material. Does it contain Silverescent® and No-Stink Zinc™ technology? Is it breathable to reduce sweating?
- Where on the body its worn? Base layers worn next to the skin need to be washed more regularly than the overlayers you’re using for extra warmth.
- How are you storing the garment between uses? Leave damp kit at the bottom of your bag and bacteria will grow so fast you’ll need to wash it. Hang it up to dry and it can last another day.
Hayden Davey, lululemon Quality Systems and Operations Lead
For more useful articles and workouts, head to our Training Space.