Can You Wear Sweatpants To The Gym Or Not?

So, Can You Wear Sweatpants To The Gym Or Not?

Guides | Lifting Training

Workout sweatpants have become immensely popular for casual wear and sports alike, offering a comfortable and relaxed fit ideal for lounging, running errands, or exercising. Among the younger generation, joggers have surged in popularity, as evident from clothing store trends.

So, can you wear sweatpants to the gym? To many, they seem like the first choice. Let’s compare them to other popular options, namely shorts and leggings, to see how they stack up.

Can You Wear Sweatpants To The Gym? – Of course you can. Many people prefer working out in sweatpants over shorts or leggings. A quality pair of workout sweatpants will be comfortable, warm, and stylish. It’s also more durable than leggings, and more protective than shorts.

Wearing Sweatpants For Workouts

Sweatpants are casual apparel mostly used for athletic purposes, although cultural shifts have seen them emerge as the go-to casual pants. The overall fit is relaxed, with an elasticized band on top to adjust the waist size and tapered leg cuffs that sit particularly well on a pair of athletic shoes.

They provide a slim, closed-off look and feel but aren’t fully insulated or skin-tight, providing decent heat insulation while maintaining high levels of airflow. They’re made from stretchable fabric, leaving ample room for movement. People often confuse sweatpants and joggers. Depending on where you are from, in your language, they might even have a shared name.

Wearing Sweatpants For Workouts

Although visually quite similar, there are minor differences. Sports and lifestyle brand Uniqlo explains that both are primarily used for sports and physical activity, though sweatpants are a bit thicker, which makes them more suitable for outdoor workouts. This leaves us with the question, can you wear sweatpants to the gym? Let’s find out.

4 Benefits Of Wearing Sweatpants In The Gym

Are sweatpants good for working out? Here are some important benefits of wearing sweatpants to the gym that may change your outlook on gym clothing:

✅ Skin Protection

Exercise equipment at public gyms is not the cleanest, per se. Machines often carry behind sweat marks, dead skin cells, respiratory fluid, and chemical residue from cleaning products, which can contain different types of bacteria. Further, heat and moisture (sweat) often stimulate their growth and spread. The gym staff does what they can, but even cleaning twice per day isn’t enough

Awareness of this has particularly gone up post-2020 pandemic. While most people are mindful of bacteria transferred via hands and wash them regularly, direct skin contact between our legs and the equipment when wearing shorts often goes overlooked.

For example, think of adductor or abductor machines. Sweatpants can act as a protective barrier between your skin and exercise machines, helping to minimize this potential health risk.

✅ No Sweat Marks

Closely tied to the previous point, one of the underrated benefits of wearing sweatpants at the gym is their ability to absorb sweat effectively. Speaking specifically about public gyms, many gym machines require you to sit or lie down to work out, putting you in direct contact with the equipment.

Take, for example, an indoor rower. You’re going to be sitting down and the machine is mostly used for cardio, so you’re going to sweat. However, sweatpants will act as a barrier between you and the seat, preventing sweat from breaking through and leaving marks on the cushioning. 

Wearing Sweatpants In The Gym

Many gyms have a policy of wiping away sweat marks after using a machine with a cloth or towel to help keep the equipment at least somewhat clean and sanitized before staff does a thorough cleaning. Sweatpants can minimize or outright remove the need for doing this. So, you’ll save time, adhere to cleanliness policies, and show respect to the gym staff and people who will use the machine after you, win-win.

✅ Warmth Factor

Working out in sweatpants keeps you warm. Sweatpants trap heat close to your body, while the breathable material still allows for ample airflow, preventing overheating inside. If you work out at a large, public gym, especially in summertime, the air conditioning will be cranked up to the maximum.

However, this can create large temperature disparities from room to room. It can be a completely different experience standing next to the treadmills with AC machines at full blast Vs. the open space of weightlifting platforms. Sweatpants will keep that temperature regulated.

Working out in a cold environment can reduce your aerobic performance and strength due to declining muscle temperature. “But wouldn’t I just be warm from exercising anyway?” Yes, but it’s important to think about cooldown periods here. Maybe you need a quick bathroom break between sets or are waiting for your turn to use a piece of equipment.

If the difference in temperature between you and the room is significant, this waiting period can be stressful both physically and mentally.

Benefits Of Wearing Sweatpants

✅ Leg Covering

Admittedly, this will be highly dependent on culture and will differ depending on where you’re from, your background, and your personal views. In some cultures, wearing shorts in public buildings is seen as inappropriate. For example, schools, government buildings, and office spaces can have a strict no shorts allowed policy.

Arguably, this comes from military culture, where shorts are not allowed to this day, though policies on apparel have been relaxing. Obviously, gyms aren’t the most professional setting, but if this applies to you, wearing sweatpants at the gym is perfectly acceptable.


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2 Disadvantages Of Wearing Sweatpants In The Gym

So far, wearing sweats to the gym seems pretty good, with some important positives to note. However, there are some potential disadvantages to doing so, too.

❌ Movement Restriction

The most obvious disadvantage of working out in sweatpants is they’re simply more restrictive than shorts or leggings. Even though the material used in the construction of quality sweatpants is highly stretchable, it may not be enough. Exercises that utilize your legs come to mind.

For example, deadlifts or squats, various machines, cycling, and even something like stretching/yoga. Apart from movement restriction, there’s also a risk of ripping mid-exercise. Potentially embarrassing, sure, but more importantly, it could prematurely end your workout and waste your money.

Sweatpants In The Gym

❌ Too Hot (For Cardio)

The heat-trapping properties of workout sweatpants can be great if you’re going through a regular gym day shifting between various exercise machines. However, if you plan on going for a run, especially an extended one, they might prove a bit too hot. Not to mention the excess sweating can get trapped in the fabric, which can leave behind odors and require a more thorough wash to get out.

How To Choose Good Sweatpants For Working Out?

So, what makes the best workout sweatpants? Here are some quick pointers.

1. Material

Choosing the right material for your workout sweatpants is significant. It will directly impact your comfort, performance, skin health, and even motivation for working out. Sweatpants will rub against your skin and take in sweat. Pants made from synthetic materials like polyester can rash your skin, trap sweat, release odors, and be particularly difficult to wash out.

Moreover, even though they’re cheaper, they degrade faster, requiring more frequent replacement and wasting your money in the long run. Quality workout sweatpants are predominantly crafted from natural materials such as cotton, silk, or wool. These fabrics offer breathability, softness, and moisture-wicking properties, and are gentle on the skin.

Additionally, they are easier to wash. While they may incorporate some synthetic stretchable fabrics to enhance flexibility, this is essential for enabling comfortable movement during workouts and preventing tears. When choosing sweatpants, opt for blends that contain at least 50% natural fabric. Although they may have a higher initial cost, they are a long-term investment.

How To Choose Good Sweatpants

2. Fit

Next, let’s talk about fit. Stretchable fabrics can only get you so far, when working out in sweatpants, they need to fit well enough to allow for a full range of motion. Sweatpants that are a size too small will restrict movement and will be uncomfortable to work out in. Additionally, the strain on the fabric stretching beyond its capacity will lead to rips or tears, especially in areas where tension is concentrated, such as the seams or crotch.

Sweatpants that are too big are also problematic. Excess materials hanging around can be hazardous. For example, they could easily catch into workout equipment or you might trip over them. The poor fit might drag along and slow you down as you exercise. Despite their loose fit, they could still restrict your movement, with material bulking up and not stretching properly. Also, visually, it just looks bad.

3. Exercise Preference

Sweatpants are highly versatile when it comes to exercises you can do with them. Pretty much anything goes as long as they’re not restrictive. They’re especially good if you’re going to do exercises where shorts or leggings may be inappropriate. For example, let’s say you’re at the power tower doing knee-raise variations, or maybe you’re on the leg press machine.

Can people see inside your shorts? Are your leggings cutting in or too revealing? Possibly, it’s certainly something to consider before choosing your gym attire. Sweatpants are a safe bet.

4. Our Recommended Workout Sweatpants – NoBull Blended Merino Wool Track Pant

NoBull is a rising star among fitness brands. They gained fame primarily through their cross-training shoes, and now offer a full range of athletic apparel. Their new track pant series offers some of the best workout sweatpants available. As the name suggests, the NoBull Blended Merino Wool Track Pant is primarily made from Merino wool.

NoBull Blended Merino Wool Track Pant Instagram
Photo by @nobull

Merino wool is a premium material known for being highly temperature-regulating, moisture-wicking, and breathable — an impeccable choice for athletic apparel. It doesn’t wrinkle and is easy to wash out, making upkeep of the pants simple and efficient. They’re slim fit, designed around reducing bulk, with a tapered leg on the bottom creating a perfect closed fit.

The leg zippers make them easy to slide on and off and can be used to open up airflow amind particularly heated exercises. The pants come in three color options: classic black, dark fallen rock, and balsam — the latter two, being a modern take on brown and green, are especially eye-catching. Overall, comfortable, stylish, and quality.

Pants Vs. Shorts Vs. Leggings: What’s Best For The Gym

So, when can you work out in sweatpants, and are there instances when alternatives are better? For most people, lower-body apparel for the gym comes down to three choices: pants, shorts, or leggings. Here’s how the latter two stack up:

1. Pros/Cons Of Wearing Shorts For Training

Sweatpants vs. shorts for the gym will remain a debate until the end of time. Here’s what shorts can offer that’s different from pants and leggings:


  • The most range of motion (ROM)
  • Lightweight, easy to wear
  • Super compact, easy to fold into gym bags
  • No bulk when worn
  • Can be combined with leggings underneath


  • Legs are exposed to scrapes, abrasions, sunburns
  • Lack of warmth and heat retention on their own
  • Poorly fitting shorts can be quite uncomfortable and invasive

Pro Tip:

You can always combine shorts with leggings if you need added warmth or compression.

Our Recommended Workout Shorts – NoBull Solid Stretch Shorts 7”

If shorts are more your thing, check out the NoBull solid stretch shorts. Made mostly out of nylon with a touch of spandex for flexibility, the material is durable, stretchable, and resistant to wear and tear. The gusset build provides added mobility to the crotch area and prevents tearing at a common pressure point for most exercises.

NoBull Solid Stretch Shorts 7” Instagram
Photo by @nobull

The concealed mesh bag pockets are large enough for a phone or wallet but don’t bulk up when not filled, providing an overall slim and seamless look and feel. Between four color options, with the mineral and balsam being standouts, one is certain to suit your taste.

2. Pros/Cons Wearing Leggings For Training

Leggings are an especially common choice among female athletes, arguably the most popular. Here’s how they perform:


  • Cozy, comfortable
  • Compressive, heat-trapping
  • Highly stretchable
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Perfect silhouette


  • Not as warm when worn on their own
  • May be see-through, or lack opacity
  • Limited protection against abrasion and friction
  • A puncture in the material makes them irreparable

Our Recommended Workout Leggings – NoBull Women’s High-Rise Matte Tight

For the ladies who enjoy looking and feeling good when they work out, we highly recommend the NoBull women’s high-rise matte tight. Crafted from soft and highly stretchable fabric, the leggings are comfortable to wear and soft to the touch, while the flat-lock seams sit comfortably and don’t irritate the skin.

NoBull Women's High-Rise Matte Tight Instagram
Photo by @nobull

The higher waistbands land perfectly on the hips for a flattering fit, while the lined gusset provides added protection, particularly against friction. Apart from the classic black, they come in six attractive color options, guaranteed to grab attention. Plus, the matte finish doesn’t reflect light, giving them a premium look.

3. Table Summary:

With all that said, here’s a quick table summary on pants vs. shorts vs. leggings:

StretchMediumLow (less applicable*)High
Flexibility (ROM)ModerateHighHigh
Style factorHighLowModerate-high
Price$$ / $$$$ / $$$$


Are Sweatpants Good For The Gym?

Sweatpants are an excellent choice for the gym. A pair of workout sweatpants made from quality, breathable material is comfortable, looks stylish, and keeps you warm without trapping heat. They also don’t leave sweat marks behind. If you’re not engaging in particularly complex movements that might be restricted by or tear your sweatpants, then they’re a great option.

Can I Wear Sweatpants To The Gym In The Summer?

Many people prefer wearing sweats to the gym, even during summertime. Particularly in large, popular gyms, the AC is running all the time, especially around the cardio machines, and it might even be a bit chilly inside. Quality sweatpants are breathable enough not to cause discomfort, even if it’s hot outside.


In summary, can you wear sweatpants to the gym? Everything points to them being a great choice. Their comfort, flexibility, and versatility make them a standout, even among other popular choices like shorts or leggings.

There are some exceptions when the latter two are better, namely when high-mobility or intense cardio exercises are involved, but even then it’s a matter of preference. Sweatpants are warm, cozy, and above all protective. If you prefer wearing sweatpants at the gym, make sure to check out the NoBull Blended Merino Wool Track Pant.

We’d love to hear from you as well. Do you have a favorite pair of sweatpants? What’s your preferred gym apparel? Let us know in the comments and make sure to give us a follow on social media if you want to stay in touch with similar content.


  1. “Fabric Guide: What Is Merino Wool?” MasterClass (accessed Feb. 20, 2024).
  2. “Joggers Vs Sweatpants: How to Compare,” Uniqlo (accessed Feb. 20, 2024).
  3. John W. Castellani, Michael J. Tipton, “Cold Stress Effects on Exposure Tolerance and Exercise Performance,” Comprehensive Physiology vol. 6, no. 1 (2015), 443-469.
  4. Kirsten A. Goldhammer, David P. Dooley, Eleanor Ayala, Wendy Zera, Bonnie L. Hill, “Prospective study of bacterial and viral contamination of exercise equipment,” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine vol. 16, no. 1 (2006), 34-38.
  5. “These 7 Military Dress Code Violations Can Get You Booted” (accessed Feb. 20, 2024).
  6. All photos are made by WBCM Media team.
Jason Li

Author: Jason Li

Personal Coach | Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist

Jason is an NYC personal training expert and National level Olympic Weightlifting Coach with over 10 years of experience training everyday clients to high levels of performance. He has trained everyone from youth (13 years old and under) to masters (60+ years old) to regional and national rankings for powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, Short distance (up to 200m) sprinting, discus & hammer throwing.

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