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For the suits on Wall Street, sportswear is a hot market to be in. With this section of the fashion industry looking to hit $184.6 Billion by 2020, everybody seems to be hopping in. Fashionable sports wear of all sorts are popping up, with market leaders like Under Armor, Lululemon, Nike and the likes coming up with good looking, technologically advanced fashion pieces that promise to help you exercise better, in more comfort.

But really, do we need to spend so much money on workout gear?

Competitive compression

Outdoor Jogging 6 1

Many runners use advanced gear called compression sportswear. These ultra tight leggings and tops are said to help runners run more efficiently and recover faster.

Primarily, compression clothing is said to reduce your run times and help runners break their personal best by increasing blood circulation and oxygen into their muscles.

Today, athletes of all sports lean into compression gear as a way of enhancing their performance. Just look at basketball players on the NBA courts, or sprinters like Usain Bolt.

However, it seems that there is little evidence that these clothes actually help improve the performance of the average Jane.

Researchers found that compression gear did very little to improve actual running performance over long distances, sprints or otherwise. In fact, a study done on NCAA Volleyball players showed that there was only a very marginal increase in their maximum leaping height.

So, perhaps for professional sportsmen, compression gear help them get an edge over their competition – after all their competitors are likely to be just marginally better than them, and that’s all they need to win a gold medal. But for the rest of us? Probably not as useful.

Cognitive edge

However, before decided to stop buying ourselves that nice piece of workout gear, psychologists have found that there is an observable effect on how clothing (sportswear included) affects human behaviour, right down to the way we think and act!


In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers dressed some subjects in lab coats and had another group dress normally. Both groups were subjected to attention-related tasks, and the subjects in lab coats performed significantly better.

The researchers coined this “Enclothed Cognition”, a physical expression of the commonly used phrase “The clothes maketh the man”. This performance-enhancement extends to exercise – if you look good in the yoga studio, you tend to do better. The same goes for the gym, which explains why people are willing to drop hundreds of dollars on branded gym wear.

While this “enclothed cognition” does not replace good old intrinsic motivation, the key thing is that it provides the user with a psychological boost, which is crucial when they’re tired or not feeling too good. It’s just like how high heels make people more confident.

Everybody wants to feel good

In the end, when it comes to exercise gear, the truth is that we spend money to make ourselves feel better. But that’s not always a bad thing! Some people are totally fine wearing basic apparel that doesn’t promise to turn them into sporting superstars, while others want to look good while breaking a sweat.

The most important thing is that you’re comfortable while you’re pushing your body to its limit. If getting an SGD80 pair of yoga pants help you do that, go for it! Just make sure you don’t spend your last dollar on gear you end up wearing only once, and you’ll be fine. Now go forth, and break a sweat in those awesome new tops you just splurged on!