What would it take to get Americans to exericse more? That seems to be a question of the times. If we told them they could finish their workout in 4 minutes, would they do it? If we reminded them that even household chores count, would that help? Or maybe if we let them wear their workout clothes all the time (or at least to work on Fridays), they would be more inclined to get moving?
Over at Slate, that idea — “workout wear Friday” — which came up in the Washington Post, was appropriately mocked by blogger Jessica Grose. Not only is there no real research to support the idea that if you put people in their workout clothes for the day, they actually will exercise, but there’s already plenty of other ways employers can encourage their employees to be more fit like subsidized gym memberships and health plans.
And while Grose also points out that your health and fitness is your own business and not your employer’s even if tying insurance plans to employment does make it their business as well I think there are a couple of other important reasons for “workout wear Friday” to be buried before it begins.
First and foremost is the importance of dressing for the job at hand. Workout clothes are made for comfort, flexibility, and keeping your skin dry when you sweat. There’s no question in my mind that putting those clothes on people in a workplace setting will cause them to have a hard time focusing on the task at hand: their jobs. (This is exactly why I am not embracing the fitness fashion trend).
Anyone who has been to a high school during spirit week, when everyone is wearing pajamas or sporting crazy hairdos, knows that discipline suffers when the kids are not wearing their school clothes. And adults are not immune to this syndrome: workplaces, like schools, have dress codes to encourage discipline, productivity, and appropriate behavior. “Workout Wear Friday” would undermine the productivity of the American workforce.
Aside from the missed productivity, allowing an entire day to wear workout clothes takes away the power of the clothes. Before too long, they become just another outfit choice, not something denoting that you are going to the gym, or that you have just been out for a run. Taken to the extreme, in a couple of hundred years we’ll all be relaxing in our lounge chairs in our workout clothes, sipping our food from oversized cups, too heavy to move on our own. (At least if you believe WALL-E to be at all prescient, which I do).
The Washington Post mentioned that wearing workout clothes would be a “reward” or incentive for those who work out or plan to. But those who work out know that sitting around in sweaty clothes is not a reward, it’s a privilege. One that should not be abused by making them common or ordinary. People need to earn the right to wear them and if they really are that much of an incentive, people should be happy to peel off their work clothes at the end of the day to head to the gym so they can feel the comfort of the flexible, moisture-wicking fabric against their skin while they lift weights or repeat sun-salutations with the rest of the gym-going public.