Made famous by companies like Under Armor and Nike, compression garments have become the most coveted athletic wear for modern athletes. Beyond the aesthetic figure hugging qualities that compression wear is known for, it also boasts benefits such as helping to improve recovery and overall athletic performance. But research has shown that compression wear might not be worth the hype and the hefty price tag.
Compression wear comes in the form of snug fitting socks, shorts, tights, and shirts. Their benefits are backed up by famous athletes like Dwayne Wade and Cam Newton. Researchers have been trying for years to pinpoint the science of compression wear. How does it work? Can it effectively boost athletic performance like so many people claim?
Like Newton and Wade, there are hundreds of thousands of athletes and exercise enthusiasts who will tout the benefits of their tight fitting athletic wear. Even those with everyday injuries feel that compression bands have helped them to recovery faster. With such a dedicated fan base, it makes sense that the research should strongly back it up.
In a study that was recently published in 2015, researchers measured the performance of 16 long-distance runners in hopes of seeing improvements with compression wear versus without. The expectation was for scientists to measure a difference in oxygen consumption and overall athletic performance. Surprisingly, no changes were detected.
Still, there are arguments against the studies saying that not enough participants were used, or that compression wear works over long periods of time – not one short session. The researchers also note that in order to gain the physiological response needed to make compression wear work properly; it must be worn for a few hours after strenuous exercise.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence to back up performance and recovery benefits, many compression wear companies are designing their products to be sweat wicking, stretchable, and breathable – making for much more comfortable yoga and Pilates workouts, as well as activities like jogging.