Sunday mornings are my “me time” — a few hours every week where I block off part of the day that I dedicate to myself, doing what I want to do. This means no working, no laundry and no grocery shopping. All of that comes after 11 a.m.
Recently, most of my allotted private time has been spent on bettering my health, where I join the flock of early birds who are feverishly lifting weights, cycling or jogging in an attempt to look like the 2.0 versions of John Krasinksi and Britney Spears.
As a late blooming New Year’s resolutionist, I’ve only recently begun going to the gym to shed my excess winter weight. A few lat pulls here and a few deadlifts there is more than enough to get my muscles in a panic. Fortunately, thanks to the likes of compression attire, everyone from casual gym-goers to competitive athletes are reaping its benefits for performance and recovery.
WHAT IS COMPRESSION CLOTHING?
Compression garments have been around for as long as half a century, unsurprisingly finding its start in the medical field. It’s blend of spandex and nylon helps promote blood flow, particularly preventing edema in diabetics.
In an article written by Greatist, Robert Gotlin, D.O., the director of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, says “Stockings were made so there is more pressure lower [on the leg], and less farther up. […] They can push blood along for those with vascular disease or circulation problems.”
From there, Gotlin says the thinking emerged: if garments increase blood flow, could similar clothing help athletes perform better?
Turn on the boob tube and you’ll see virtually every basketball, baseball and football player sporting some sort of compression gear. From arm sleeves and calf sleeves to undershorts, leggings and pants, it’s become the go-to for performance and style.
Companies like Nike, Adidas, Puma and Under Armour have inundated the marketplace with their own lines, claiming their gear supports muscles, improves circulation and speeds up recovery time.
SO, DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?
Remarkably, studies have shown signs of this to be true, and not just marketing hogwash.
During a maximal treadmill test, one study concluded that compression socks helped athletes run longer and hit a higher speed. They also found that compression sock-wearing participants’ running speeds had a higher anaerobic threshold.
An endurance cycling study also showed positive results. Researchers in Australia found an increased concentration of oxygen in cyclists’ muscles when they were wearing compression sleeves. And similar to compression sock wearers, these athletes also took a longer amount of time to reach anaerobic threshold.
Despite these results, many researchers believe this skin-tight gear gives athletes nothing more than a psychological edge.
“There are studies that show the biggest effect is placebo,” Gotlin says. “People might say they feel and perform better with the garments on, but is it because the garments are doing their supposed function?” In other words, it's possible you're just running on adrenaline.
In summary, whether mind or muscle, there’s something to be said about this new(ish) and improved workout attire. And with moisture wicking capabilities, anti-odor technology and four-way stretch material for improved range of movement, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose … except maybe a few pesky pounds.
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