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Some runners swear by running thongs, thong underwear designed specifically for high-activity levels such as running. Others say that you must wear only white cotton underwear due to risk of infection. A few even skip the dilemma altogether by opting out of wearing any underwear during exercise. Personal preference might vary due to health reasons and comfort, and experts have found positives and negatives to all options.
Wearing thongs eliminates the panty-line look when you are wearing fitted aerobic pants or shorts. Because thongs use a thin piece of material to cover your womanly parts, you never have to worry about dealing with the wedgie scenario where you have a wad of material cramming itself into a small space. However, the design of thongs is the perfect setup for allowing fecal bacteria to make its way to the vagina, leading to uncomfortable bacterial infections. Because it is tight, stays close to your body and moves back and forth as you jog, it lays an open road for bacteria to travel where it should not go. Therefore, opting out of thongs is a wise choice.
Nylon panties rank high in comfort, but the material does not wick away moisture. Instead, it traps moisture between your underwear and your body, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. This has previously been thought to nix nylon from the exercise panty equation, but new high-tech nylon/spandex blends are proving to have potential. These form-fitting fabrics do not chafe or retain moisture, thereby decreasing the chance of yeast infection.
Cotton underwear fits more loosely and breathes more readily, so infection potential is decreased. Health professionals have long tagged this fabric as the top choice for anytime use thanks to its ability to help keep infections and bacteria growth at bay. However, many joggers find it uncomfortable during the activity as it tends to slide into the dreaded wedgie position.
If allowing your skin and genitalia to breathe during exercise is an important factor, it seems logical that going commando might be the answer. Some women prefer this method, though many might not even see this as an option. If you have ever given birth vaginally, you might choose to abstain from this choice. Urinary incontinence is very common, and chances increase with the exertion of exercise. Moreover, normal cyclic vaginal discharge occurs at different times throughout the month. Underwear sanitarily catches anything that might make for an embarrassing situation.
The final answer boils down to a personal choice. Every option offers positives and negatives, and the impact of each will vary from person to person. Weigh your options, take your comfort and personal vaginal health into consideration and, if necessary, talk to your ob-gyn about what option best fits your health history.
- "HealthMad"; The Health Risks of Wearing Thong Panties; Kristie Leong, M.D.; August 2009
- "American Journal of Public Health"; A Preliminary Study on Dressing Patterns and Incidence of Candidiasis; Isaac A. Elegbe, MT(ASCP), MSc, et al; 1982
- Wyoming Health Council; Vaginal Health: What Every Woman Should Know
- Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images