Differences Between Sweats & Athletic Pants

Australia's "Biggest Loser" host Michelle Bridges can get away with wearing athletic pants.

Photo: Richard Carr/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In Britain, they call them “jogging bottoms,” but even that amusing nickname cannot make sweatpants a fashion go-to. These baggy mainstays of college dorm rooms and football practice have been replaced by more functional and chic athletic wear. While sweatpants still have a place in some gyms, athletic pants can offer more fashion versatility.


Classic sweatpants are usually made from cotton with a baggy fit featuring an elastic waistband and elastic at the ankles. Once most often found in gym-uniform gray, sweatpants now come in myriad colors with logos from sports teams or brand names. Sweatpants help keep your legs warm in cool temperatures, but their bagginess allows for air flow to prevent overheating.

Athletic Pants

Athletic pants encompass a whole other category of pants worn for exercise. Windpants, yoga pants and running tights all fall under the athletic pant category. Athletic pants can be made from nylon, polyester, spandex or cotton. Athletic pants tend to be more form fitting than sweatpants – especially when designed for women. Athletic pants usually do not have elastic at the ankle – but some windpants or running tights may feature a zipper at the bottom of each pant leg to increase the taper or make them easy to slide over shoes.


Fashion athletic pants include those velour track suits sported by soccer moms. Yoga pants also have morphed into an acceptable casual look – replacing jeans in some circles. Yoga pants are more comfortable than denim, but because they lack the bagginess of sweats, they look neater and less high school. Designers have dabbled in creating more fashionable-looking sweats. These come in different shades of gray and are more fitted than your traditional boyfriend’s pair. “Cosmopolitan” fashion editor Lauren Finney suggests wearing them with heels, T-shirt and a fitted blazer.


Athletic pants are more flattering to most figures than shapeless sweatpants. Athletic pants can also allow for greater range of movement than sweatpants and help you analyze your movements because of their formed fit. Athletic pants often are made from moisture-wicking fabrics that can help keep you cool when working out.

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