Compression clothing has become an increasingly popular option for workout gear in recent years. These garments apply pressure at carefully determined points and promise to offer athletic benefits to their wearers. According to manufacturers, the clothes can help increase power, enhance performance, speed recovery and improve outcomes. Other mentioned benefits include enhanced blood circulation, reduced blood lactate concentration, greater skin temperature, reduced muscle oscillation and reduced delayed onset muscle soreness.
A new study indicates that at least some of these alleged benefits may be exaggerated. In fact, researchers believe that the actual gains may be coming not from the lower leg and the garments that dress the lower-leg region but from an area much further north. They believe that people have greater expectations while wearing the stockings, pants and other clothes and so perform better. This may be the fitness world’s version of the placebo effect.
The study, which was performed at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, involved 16 competition runners, several of whom swore by CON or pressure garments. Each man wore monitors to measure kinematic movements and masks to measure their oxygen intake, CO2 output, CS speeds and other variables. They then ran on a treadmill at various speeds.
After slipping specially designed pressure sleeves onto their lower legs, they repeated the tests. According to manufacturer, the men’s bodies should have been more efficient when their legs were properly compressed, but the researchers found no statistically significant differences in the runners’ performance and no change in their rate of recovery. Previous studies have come to similar conclusions.
While this may come as an unpleasant surprise to many athletes who swear by pressure garments, researchers emphasize that the idea needs more studies before any recommendations can be made. Until then, you can be confident in using any tools that inspire you to work harder and reach your fitness goals. If pressure garments help you stay focused, energized and ready to move, then they can be considered a fitness aid for you even if their benefits cannot yet be proven.