It’s officially summer which means everyone wants to look and feel their best. Most people’s NewYear’s resolutions would have been to work out more, improve their health and get into the best shape of their lives. I myself started a little later than most and have only become more active in the past couple of months, but one thing I noticed about myself, was my need to buy new workout gear in preparation for my new active lifestyle. This got me thinking, do the workout clothes you wear actually, aid your motivation to work out?

Technically, if you’re just starting to work out, you need nothing but your own body and a little bit of space, so why do people feel the need to invest in clothing before they’ve even started? Brands have started to respond to this need with more and more companies coming out with activewear ranges. More specifically, Lululemon has recently produced an “engineered sensations” range which is activewear based on “how you want to feel”. Although this is an interesting idea, is there any truth behind it, or are brands just trying to capitalise on the fact that people will do anything to feel like they are more active.

Activewear boosts confidence

The classic studies by Adam and Galinsky in the Journal of General Psychology in 2012, showed that wearing a doctor’s lab coat, makes you more likely to be careful and pay attention to things. This highlights that clothing can influence your behaviour, so, in line with this you would predict that wearing good activewear could have the power to make you feel more athletic and therefore motivated to workout. It could have the ability to give you the confidence to go to the gym even if you are someone who suffers from gym anxiety.

But the key finding of the experiment, which is most relevant to the current topic, is that the lab coat only influenced the person’s behaviour if they were physically wearing it. This shows that just buying activewear in preparation to workout does not provide any benefit in motivation. What might be more productive is to get up in the morning and wear those new pieces straight away. That way you will experience the benefits of so-called “enclothed cognition” , feel more athletic and will have completed an effective work out by the end of the day.

Athletic Identity

From another perspective, workout clothes can help you feel more accepted as an athletic individual by other gym goers, which can also help boost your confidence. In 2006, Collinson and Hockey tracked the recovery of two injured runners. During their two year recovery period, the runners wore their running kit even when only going on walks as they felt that if they looked like runners then they would still feel accepted by the running community which would help them maintain their runner identities. This is an interesting observation as it might be that buying and wearing new activewear helps you feel more identified with the other active individuals and therefore gives you a new, more active identity. As a result of this, it may make having a workout routine easier as you link yourself to the identities of other gym goers who work out frequently.

Although you may think that what other people do in the gym doesn’t effect you, having a group identity and feeling like you belong can massively benefit your workout. The most obvious example of this is with group workout classes such as the infamous soul cycle. If you attend one of these classes feeling like you look the part in your new workout gear, you will most likely also act the part by feeling more confident in your personal athletic identity, but also in your identity as a member of the group. If all members of the group feel like they belong then you can all focus on your workout and motivate each other to go harder. The same logic can be seen within a sports team where team members wear the same kit.

So maybe there is some benefit in investing in some good workout clothes to help inspire you with your health kick. But the take home message is… make sure you actually wear them! That way they can serve their purpose and not sit in the corner of your wardrobe gathering dust.

With all the new styles and brands that are creating such innovative, fashion led activewear it has never been easier to rock workout clothes during the day. If that can help motivate you to be more active via giving you a new identity and helping you feel accepted, or by giving you the confidence of a capable athletic person, then I say go for  it!


Yass Rad is a Experimental Psychology student who was born and raised in London. She loves to combine her lifelong interest in fashion with her Psychology background by exploring how the two areas interlink.


  1. Maisie Spencer Reply

    If you work out or play sports a lot, I think you might as well consider it as a necessity. I’m a sports aficionado myself, and I own a couple of ethical activewear that I got from this provider: Without them, playing soccer with my friends would be hard and uncomfortable. And of course, I agree that wearing such clothing can give you a unique athletic feeling that you just wouldn’t have without them. When you’re into sports, then having sporty clothes is kinda an important requirement.

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