Leggings vs. Shorts: What Should I Wear for My Workout?

Leggings vs. Shorts: What Should I Wear for My Workout?

The athleisurewear trend is huge and leggings and yoga pants are taking over as a hot gym and casual wear look. But as the weather gets warmer, we are seeing a lot of people wearing yoga shorts. These are convenient to wear, cool and terrific for spring and summer trends.

However, just because it’s hot outside, that doesn’t mean you automatically should be wearing shorts. There are other factors to consider.

This article will review the facts and help you determine whether you should be wearing leggings or shorts for your workout.

The Weather

Sure, the weather will factor heavily in your decision to wear shorts or leggings.

If you’re like me, you can’t stand having any excess material on your skin during the hot weather. While leggings may be okay in an air-conditioned gym, if you plan on wearing your gym clothes around town before your workout, sticking with shorts may be your best option.

woman doing split on wooden bridge near pink petaled flower trees during daytime

It’s also important to remember that, although leggings are warmer, today, many of them are made with breathable technology and moisture-wicking materials that will help you feel cooler and drier.


When it comes to performance, leggings may be a better option because they will keep your muscles warm. This can benefit you in several ways including the following:

  •         Warm clothing causes the temperature of the blood to increase as it travels through muscles. This decreases oxygen’s bond to hemoglobin making it more readily available to working muscles, therefore, boosting endurance.  

  •         When you are warmer, your blood vessels dilate increasing blood flow and decreasing strain on the heart.

  •         Added warmth causes hormonal changes to occur including the increased production of cortisol and epinephrine that are responsible for energy production.

  •         When muscle temperature increases the muscles contract more forcefully and relax quickly. This reduces the risk of overstretching a muscle to cause injury. It also boosts elasticity that can increase speed and strength.

  •         Warmed-up muscles increase the range of motion so your body can achieve its maximum movement potential.

The Type of Exercise You’re Doing

The type of exercise you are doing will come into play.

Yoga pants with flared bottoms, in particular, can get in the way when you are trying to do certain exercises.

From below of crop fit female bicyclist in sportswear riding bike uphill in mountainous area while exercising endurance and listening to music in earphones

They can hang down during leg lifts and get underfoot when you are trying to move. They can get in the way when you’re trying to run or cycle.

If you are trying to decide between flared yoga pants and shorts and you plan on engaging in extensive physical activity, shorts are the way to go.

Protecting Yourself from the Elements

Leggings will be a better option if you are dealing with the elements.

For example, if you are going on a hike and wear shorts, your legs will be more prone to scratches from low-lying tree branches and plants. It will also leave you unprotected from poison ivy and other harmful materials, not to mention the sun.

If you are going to be exercising in an environment where you could end up getting cuts, scratches, and rashes, leggings are a better bet.


Leggings offer more compression than shorts do. They work almost like a bandage which can be beneficial if you have issues with varicose veins or if your knees need extra support.

They also improve circulation. The increased blood flow to the muscle minimizes the creation of the creatine kinase enzyme resulting in fewer muscle spasms, aches and pains. It also boosts recovery time.

Making a Fashion Statement

Who doesn’t like to look good when working out?

When it comes to fashion, the decision to wear shorts or leggings will be a personal choice. If you have terrific legs, you may want to show them off as much as possible. Therefore, shorts will be an obvious choice.

woman using dumbbells

Leggings, on the other hand, are great for making your figure look more contoured. And with so many great colors, prints and patterns to choose from, they make an irresistible option.  


If modesty is an issue, it may be a draw.

It could be argued that shorts are not as modest because they reveal more leg. However, leggings are very form-fitting and more revealing in that regard.

If you are having issues with modesty, there are ways to get around them in both cases. When wearing leggings, opt for darker colors and quality materials that aren’t as likely to show through. You can also wear longer tops that cover the upper part of your body.

When it comes to shorts, there are a variety of materials, lengths and colors to choose from. There are even shorts that come with a layer underneath so nothing will be revealed if they ride up.


Comfort is another thing to consider. Some people love to feel the air on their legs and the ultimate freedom of bare skin. Shorts will be a better option for those individuals.  

Others may feel more comfortable wearing material that hugs their body. They may feel invigorated by the light fabric putting them in the mood to work out.

Loose shorts can also chafe the inside of the leg making them less comfortable than leggings.

woman in white long sleeve shirt and white pants sitting on blue wooden chair during daytime

When it comes to comfort, you must consider which feels better when you wear them.

Shorts and leggings are both great workout options. When it comes to choosing which is right for you, you must consider your comfort level, the type of activity you are engaging in and which helps you perform better.

Which will you be putting in your gym bag? 

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