Athleisure and Fast Fashion

Yoga pants, running shirts or any other sweat wicking clothing is no longer strictly for exercise but now a part of our everyday attire. These articles of clothing are made from a synthetic microfiber like polyester or nylon which have been found in large quantities in our oceans. It has quickly become a risk to the marine life and ecosystem.1 70% of the micro plastic particles found in the ocean are in the shape of clothing fibers.2

Related: Fast Fashion and it's impact on the planet

This becomes more problematic as the public water treatment plants can't remove these microplastics as they make their way into our oceans and subsequently the food chain. The release of microplastics from synthetic clothing is caused by the mechanical and chemical stresses the clothing undergoes during the washing process. This leads to the removal of microfibres from the clothing fibers.3

How This Relates to Fitness

The majority of the aforementioned clothing is used for most fitness activities. One aspect that gets overlooked is what happens in the lifetime of these articles of clothing. Most are not meant to be worn in like a nice soft cotton shirt, rather they fall under the umbrella fast fashion mass produced in another country kind of clothing. This is problematic in that they cannot be donated or downcycled. The majority of it therefore ends up as trash in a landfill. 

These microplastics are like other kinds of plastic in that they never disappear but degrade. As the plastics degrade smaller marine life like oysters will ingest these, which you can imagine poses a problem as people then consume foods like these. The challenge comes in changing our behavior as it pertains to being smart about our clothing choices.

Here is a short video on a description of what microplastics are and how they harm our oceans:

A short clip from Sky News going over how our washing machines contribute to the microplastics found in our oceans:


  • Using a GAC filter to remove as much of the microplastics as possible in a washing machine4

  • Decide whether or not something needs to be laundered, not to say walk around in dirty clothing but change habits over use and wear
  • Using a more delicate wash cycle as to agitate the clothing less
  • Look into companies like Patagonia and REI who are at the forefront of trying to improve our clothing 
  • Look to wear cotton clothing for shorter duration activities as the benefits of the moisture wicking only helps with longer duration exercise to help with regulation of body temperature.5
  • Aim to replace with new clothing that is 100% cotton.

Below is Ted Talk discussing the issue of microplastics in our water systems. Sarah goes over the alarming rate at which we are introducing these microplastics into our water and how it gets proliferated into our food systems as well. One of the largest discussion points has to be a world where we need plastic but the rate at which we are producing and discarding it has become unsustainable. This is a point I'd like you to think about while listening to her speak.

Think About While Watching:

How much of your daily wardrobe includes these synthetic plastic blend clothing? What will you do to reduce the reliance on these articles of clothing?

How will this information affect your future purchasing options?

How will you change your intake of seafood moving forward?

Gallo F, Fossi C, Weber R, et al. Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures. Environ Sci Eur. 2018;30(1):13. doi:10.1186/s12302-018-0139-z

De Falco F, Di Pace E, Cocca M, Avella M. The contribution of washing processes of synthetic clothes to microplastic pollution. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):6633. Published 2019 Apr 29. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-43023-x


Last modified: Wednesday, 6 May 2020, 18:40