Dressing in wool for winter sports seems logical, but would you wear wool when you jog or workout?
The magic of wool is that it keeps you cool when hot and warm when cold. It sounds almost too good to be true. The different weights of wool make it suitable for all types of clothing and sports brands around the world are realising just what a wonder fabric wool is.
It’s a fabric that works with the body not against it, and as it’s soft and breathable, it rates high on the comfort scale. As well as feeling great, it looks good too. Noa Ries, Co Founder and CEO of Vie Active, a chic activewear brand based in Bondi, Sydney, describes wool as the “ultimate performance fabric”. Vie Active hit on wool as the answer when they were looking for the perfect material to use in activewear - one that would leave the wearer feeling comfortable and odour free.
Merino wool is a favourite choice for innovative high-performance gear. Wool is classified by fibre length and diameter. Merino wool is 17 to 25 µm, making this fine wool suitable for all clothing layers from base to outerwear.
What happens when you exercise?
Your body undergoes amazing changes and needs to maintain thermal balance to function. When we exercise we produce heat. To control our thermal balance this heat needs to evaporate. A rise in temperature stimulates the sweat glands. The amount of sweat produced depends on a number of environmental factors, the intensity of the exercise, the fitness of the individual and the clothing we chose to wear.
Wool is a complex biological fibre consisting of proteins, which provide flexibility and excellent performance qualities. No man-made fibre can match the qualities of wool fibre. Breathable, superior moisture management, quiet when moving, and odour resistant - these are all qualities that make wool perfect for activewear clothing.
The Science Behind It
Breathability and Moisture Management
The crimp and curl we see in wool serves a purpose. The air pockets this creates gives wool the ability to act as a natural insulator. Wool’s ability to absorb moisture from the air and transport it away from the body leaves your skin dry and comfortable just as it does on sheep. Remarkably, it also works in reverse keeping you cool as well. With wool’s natural moisture-absorbing properties and ability to regulate temperature, you remain comfortable in a wide range of conditions.
Body odour is caused largely by bacteria and other organisms that are present on our skin. When these interact with human sweat, they can result in an unpleasant odour. Clothing can attribute to this due to organisms that can reside in certain fabrics. So it makes sense that the less you sweat the less you smell and that what you wear can make a difference. Unlike synthetic fabrics where a sweat build up becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, wool’s breathability and antimicrobial qualities reduce the risk of your clothes taking on unpleasant body odour.
The Department of Product Design Norwegian University of Science and Technology conducted a study to determine how suitable wool is for exercising in the cold. The study involved nine participants - men and women - and involved testing woollen gloves for alpine touring. The tests took place on the west coast of Norway. The participants commented that they did not feel wet or uncomfortable. This is due to the breathability, water sorption and low friction of the woollen garments. The results from this experiment showed the links between the qualities of the wool fibre and the challenges of exercising in low temperatures, and proved that wool is a great material for exercising in the cold. You can read the full report from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology here.
A personal impression
If you are preparing for a hiking trip and need clothing to cover a range of weather conditions, and have to carry all your clothing with you - lightweight garments will be a high priority. They also need to be items that would function well in keeping you both warm and cool. You'll find the ultimate solution in a merino top and fleece.
Next time you’re in the market for some activewear, give wool a try. Your body will thank you!