Exercise Clothes: Look Good, Feel Good, Get Fit (cont.)

Aside from avoiding anything unflattering (there are usually lots of mirrors in a gym!), it's a good idea to stay away from any outfit you don't feel good about, says health educator Victoria Moran, author of Fit from Within: 101 Simple Secrets to Change Your Body and Your Life.

"Exercise requires energy, and putting on the sweats you wore for three days straight when you broke up with your last boyfriend or girlfriend is an energy-zapper," she says.

After all, workout clothes serve both a practical and a psychological purpose. "On a practical level, you need special workout clothes simply because street clothes are either too constricting, or they'll rip, or they're made from non-breathable fibers," Moran says. "But psychologically, you need special workout gear to convince yourself it's time to work out.

Put Function First

Of course, looking good isn't the only consideration when choosing a workout outfit. Your best bet for any activity is to choose clothes that stretch and bend with you, the experts say.

"You don't want to choose loose-fitting or short shorts, and then not be able to use the machines or do floor exercises that require a straddle position," Kase says. Long shirts with loose sleeves will also get in the way, and could even be dangerous if they get caught in the equipment.

Loose-fitting tops are also not appropriate for yoga or Pilates because they can ride up during some of the moves, says Ellen Wessel, president of the Moving Comfort athletic wear company, High-impact activities also require more form-fitting tops -- especially for larger-breasted women -- to minimize movement and promote comfort and support, Wessel says.

Comfort is key, too. So look for clothing that moves moisture away from the body as quickly as possible, Ediger says.

"A 100% cotton T-shirt will get soaking wet quickly and will stay wet," she says. As a result, you'll be uncomfortable and may be tempted to cut your workout short.

And take care not to overdress. "A good rule of thumb is to keep cool by wearing as little clothing as you feel comfortable in (and is appropriate to the setting) because people exercise more vigorously when they are not overheated," Kase says.

Most important of all, make sure you're wearing a good pair of workout shoes, says Brick. Go for quality, and choose the right pair for your activity.

"Shoes need to be supportive and specific to the activity you plan to do," she says. Running shoes, for example, do not provide enough lateral support for the side-to-side movement that is called for in an aerobics or step class.

What Lies Beneath

Don't overlook your underwear -- especially if you're a woman.

"Larger-breasted women can carry as much as five pounds per breast, making participating in high-impact activities like running difficult because of severe breast discomfort, says Elizabeth Goeke, executive vice president of Moving Comfort.