Why You Should Work Out in a Bodysuit
A unitard—also known as a workout bodysuit or onesie—is an all-in-one clothing item for yoga, Pilates, cycling, or even running. Here are the pros and cons of what's essentially a one piece, workout jumpsuit.
Consider the unitard your new go-to outfit for exercise. The lovechild of a bodysuit and leggings (or bike shorts), workout jumpsuits are taking over fitness studios and Instagram stories alike.
The word “unitard” dates back to 1961, but this one-piece is not necessarily new. Just as old styles come back in fashion, so has the unitard. (It’s also adopted a nickname: the workout onesie. Yes, like the bodysuit for babies.) The question, of course, is whether you should wear one while working out.
I’ll admit I was curious, so I wore the Beyond Yoga Spacedye Play the Angles Biker Jumpsuit for a few yoga sessions and Pilates classes. I also talked to other fitness pros about their thoughts on moving your body while wearing a bodysuit. Here’s everything you need to know before you buy a workout onesie.
What exactly is a workout bodysuit?
Remember what Olivia Newton-John wore in her “Let’s Get Physical” video? If not, just picture the outfit most fitness instructors wore in the ’80s: a bright bodysuit over leggings or tight shorts. Sew those two pieces together and you have today’s unitard or onesie. (Though these days, options come in more neutral colors.) You can find them in a few styles, from long sleeves to spaghetti strap tanks and long leggings to shorts. That means you can find one that works best for your body, your workouts, and the weather.
These days, options come in much more neutral colors and are made of performance-ready fabrics. They feature materials like the super-soft polyester and Lycra blend of the Beyond Yoga suit I tried. The buttery softness of the fabric (plus its four-way stretch) felt great against my skin, like I was wrapped in a tight (but not too tight) second skin. Like this Beyond Yoga suit, some also have adjustable straps, which is helpful for those with shorter torsos, like me.
My only complaint is that the material did feel a bit thick, so if I were doing something super intense (like a high-intensity interval class), I might have heated up more than planned.
When should you wear a workout bodysuit?
The short answer: whenever and for whatever you want. I’ve always found it best to sport tight-fitting clothes for classes like yoga and Pilates, particularly for when you might do inversions like downward-facing dog and don’t want your tank or T-shirt hanging in your face. In that case, a yoga bodysuit works perfectly and doesn’t get in the way of any poses. That same principle holds true for workouts like weight lifting and cycling too.
Unitards are comfortable for everything from dance to barre to strength training, says Jeimy Bueno Prisby, studio manager and master trainer at Life Time in Westchester, New York. She even wears them to teach her cycling classes, she says. In other words, there’s no limit to how you sport your onesie, as long as you find a comfortable one that works for you.
(Related: 6 Canadian Sports Bras for Bigger Busts)
Benefits of wearing a bodysuit
First off, it’s easy. You simply throw it on and your outfit is complete. Some fit tight enough that you don’t need a bra, and most have a gusset sewn into the crotch area for some built-in protection, meaning you don’t have to worry about underwear.
The ease of the unitard is precisely why other fitness pros love it too. “I love the simplicity of a unitard for yoga practice,” says Chloe Kernaghan, cofounder of and yoga instructor at Sky Ting in New York City. “I think they look quite elegant and chic, and you don’t have to think too hard about it.”
Finally, because of the second-skin fit and stretchiness of most materials, a unitard should easily move with your body, so you don’t have to worry about it slipping around as you flow from pose to pose or pick up weights or do any other dynamic movement.
Drawbacks to wearing a bodysuit
The most obvious one is that you basically have to get naked to go to the bathroom. Just like a romper or other one-piece outfit, you have to pull the whole thing down to hit the toilet, which can add a little time and discomfort to bathroom breaks. For example, I went sans bra in the Beyond Yoga suit, so the naked aspect rang especially true—not a big deal, especially at home, but something to consider if you’re out in public.
Like with any tight-fitting bottom, you also probably want to change out of the outfit if you get super sweaty. Any set of wet, sweaty gym clothes has the potential to intensify health problems like chafing or raise the risk of yeast infection. Also, I did find that the bike shorts option in the unitard I tried rode up my thighs a bit—not so much that it was super annoying, but enough that I noticed myself pulling the bottom of the shorts down between some poses.
I imagine this doesn’t happen quite as easily in a leggings version. And, finally, some people feel self-conscious in such formfitting workout clothing.
How to shop for a bodysuit
Both fitness experts I spoke to said to look for bodysuits that aren’t see-through. Check the reviews to make sure that’s not a common complaint of whatever unitard you might buy. Prisby also suggests looking for moisture-wicking materials (often a product will have “moisture wicking” on the label).
Kernaghan agrees fabric is important but says to consider the cut of the jumpsuit too. You might prefer a higher neckline, a defined waistline, or a more-supportive top, depending on your personal workout apparel preferences. Kernaghan suggests checking out those from Ernest Leoty, Live the Process, and FP Movement. Prisby loves the unitards from Zumba Wear because of their fabric, durability, and bold patterns.
So should you wear a bodysuit for exercise?
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of wearing a one-piece for any type of workout, even one with a slower pace, like yoga. But now, I’m hooked. Because it’s (obviously) all one piece, the suit just feels super comfy, works well in dynamic poses and movements, and is easy to slip on and go. The only time I might skip a unitard is if I’m out all day, doing errands or attending social events before or after my workout. If you have to go to the bathroom often, it’s not the most fun to get naked in the stall, but it’s also not a deal-breaker. I think I’d also wear a tee over the top of the unitard, just for a more flattering fit if I were to go out pre- or post-sweat. In the studio, though, I’m all unitard (almost) all day.
“I love jumpsuits because they are a one-stop shop to wear—no overthinking—and they shape your curves,” says Prisby. “They are so much fun to bring to a themed class or even as a refresher from the classic leggings and top!”
Overall, it’s the perfect apparel option to switch it up and keep moving, especially if you’re on the go.