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Can Activewear Be Used for Swimming?

Meredith Provensal

Companies have been focusing on making clothes that go “from the boardroom to the bar” or from the gym to Target for many years because if there’s one thing most consumers love, it’s clothing that is multi-functional. After all, who wants to drag a change of clothes everywhere when you don’t have to? As activewear, or clothing designed to be worn for sports, exercise, and outdoor activities, has become more popular and become a mainstay of 21st century fashion, it has sought to expand its functionality. Today, men's and women's activewear can be worn in many different situations in our everyday lives, including working out, running errands, lounging at home, and even swimming. 


What is Activewear?

While activewear was originally designed for playing sports, exercising, and doing outdoor activities, it has many more applications than that today and has become a fashion statement in its own right. Some common workout clothes items are a drawstring hoodie, sweatshirt, jogger, capri leggings, yoga pants, short sleeve or long sleeve pullovers, crew neck graphic tees, racerback sports bra, bike short, high rise sweatpant, skort, crop top, crop legging, or jumpsuit. Think about how many sports bras you’ve seen that come with intricate strappy designs and patterns like camo or tie dye, but offer almost zero support - who would want to exercise in that? These days, it’s impossible to tell who is on their way to or from a workout and who is just on their way to the grocery store, because loungewear is so comfortable that it has taken over our closets. Today, many people wear sportswear as a fashion statement in casual settings because it is comfortable, stylish, and versatile. As companies seek to diversify their product lines, they have also begun examining other applications for activewear, including swimming.


Can activewear Be Used For Swimming?

If you’re looking for some gear that can take you from gym to swim or vice versa, activewear is likely your best bet. Activewear is already designed to have many of the same qualities that we look for in swimsuits, such as moisture-wicking material that dries quickly, breathable fabrics, and lightweight fabrics, unlike common fabrics like denim. Swimsuits are often compressive in some way as well, offering additional support while dry so that they do not sag when wet, and activewear has this same property. However, it goes without saying that while many different activewear pieces are a great choice for water sports and swimming, not all activewear is created equal. You’ll need to make sure that the material of the pieces you choose is quick-drying, compressive, and highly breathable.


What Types of Activewear Can Be Used For Swimming?

The type of activewear that you choose to swim in will depend largely on what types of activities you’re planning on doing on the beach or in the pool. For example, if you are planning on hitting the waves and going surfing, leggings made from a material that mimics a bathing suit are a great choice because they help prevent skin irritation that can occur while surfing and being tossed around in the waves. If you’re not sure where to start, look for leggings designed for hot yoga. If they’re quick drying enough to be used in a workout with such intense heat, they’ll probably be a good fit for swimming and water sports. Sports bras are another popular choice, as they already look like bikini tops but are often more comfortable and less likely to cause chafing and irritation. Tank tops that feature a built in bra and flowing fabrics are also a great choice for the beach or pool, especially for those who want a bit more coverage than a standard bikini provides. For the guys, running shorts can often double as board shorts or swim trunks as long as they are made of a quick-drying material.


Does Activewear Make Good Swimwear?

Activewear was originally designed to be worn while working out, playing sports, and spending time outside, so it is made of fabrics that are usually flexible or stretchy, comfortable, and durable - all things you want in your swimwear, too. Materials that are used to produce activewear are generally moisture-wicking because they are designed to pull sweat away from the body and speed up the evaporation process, keeping you cooler and drier as you sweat. This makes activewear a great fit as swimwear because the gear is designed to dry quickly, just like a bathing suit. Many activewear pieces offer anti-odor properties that help keep the smell of sweat from getting trapped in your clothes, which can also come in handy if you’re spending a lot of time in saltwater or water that is treated with chlorine. Just like swimwear, the fabrics used for activewear are lightweight and designed to stay put even when they get soaked with sweat, so you don’t have to worry about sagging clothing while you swim if you’re wearing activewear. Some activewear fabrics, including bamboo, even offer UPF 50+ sun protection, which is ideal when you’re swimming laps at the lake or spending the day at the beach. Activewear clothing made from bamboo not only protects you from the sun, it’s also comfortable, flexible, and highly durable, naturally moisture-wicking, breathable, has anti-odor properties to keep smells at bay, and it’s lightweight. 


What Materials Should I Look For?

When shopping for activewear that can double as swimwear, there are a few different materials you can try. Bamboo is especially well suited for activewear that doubles as swimwear because the fabric is naturally strong and naturally includes all of the same properties that are needed in swim gear. Synthetic fabrics can get the job done, but they are often treated with chemical finishes in order to obtain the qualities that allow them to be used as swimwear. Over time, the chemicals from chlorine or the abrasive salt in saltwater can cause synthetic materials to deteriorate. People with sensitive skin should use natural fabrics, like bamboo, when possible in order to avoid skin irritation that can come with harsh chemicals and dyes. If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to looking for activewear that can double as swimwear, look for clothing that is marketed for use in activities that generally involve a lot of sweating, like hot yoga, running, and cycling. 

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