People running for sport or as a lifestyle choice have been seen wearing compression garments. It doesn’t matter the level or event, these articles of clothing come in all sorts of designs, colours and sizes. You wouldn’t be mistaken to think they are a fashionable trend.
These garments should not be confused with tight clothing like leggings and shape wear. Their purpose is to apply variable and considerable pressure to the skin. They can cover the whole body, upper body, lower body or partial parts of the body like feet or arms.
Compression clothing is popular among professional athletes and the average Joe. The ordinary tee shirt, sweats and baggy shorts have been replaced by sleek, tight and aerodynamic garments. Fitness buffs all over the world believe these garments give them an edge.
In this article, we will discuss where compression clothing came from and how they can benefit you as a runner.
Compression clothing came about in the medical field. Patients suffering problems in their lymphatic and vascular systems benefited from the use of compression garments. These were clinically designed with the patient in mind, for a purpose and worn under medical supervision.
Other clinical uses that have evolved include helping provide comfort for those on the autism spectrum or suffering anxiety disorders. They are also used in the treatment of sleep apnea and scars.
Benefits of wearing compression clothing
- Increased stability
- Increased circulation
- Increased blood flow
- More oxygen to the muscles
- More nutrients delivery
- Improved sensory feedback
- Supports muscles
- Reduced vibration from impact
- Reduce muscle fatigue
- Reduce pain and inflammation on previous injuries
- Prevents lactic acid build-up
- Promotes good movement patterns
- Prevents deep vein thrombosis
- Keeps warm in cold weather
- Protects from exposure to sun’s UV rays
- Aids in recovery and rehabilitation
Breaking it down to an easily digestible explanation, compression causes muscle relaxation. Blood vessels expand; arteries walls dilate increasing blood flow. The walls of the veins constrict. Oxygen increases and reduces any trauma after the physical activity.
Many studies have been conducted in the use of compression garments. No evidence has been found to support any physiological benefits. The conclusion is that they provide a perception of security. Director of Research at Penn State University’s Centre for Sports Medicine William Kraemer, PhD, says that “People feel good in them so they do better.”
Some studies state the effects of compression clothing include reducing amount of muscle oscillation and the bio mechanics of running resulting in the improvement of neuro-transmission and mechanical efficiency.
However, none of these studies can dispute that when used correctly compression clothing does not negatively impact performance.
People with loose skin also swear by the benefits of wearing compression clothing while running. The skin is secured tightly and does not jiggle around. Friction especially around the thighs is reduced and sometimes completely eliminated, providing comfort and allowing the runner to focus.
Types of compression clothing
There are many attractive designs and colours available. They are made to be form fitting and often from spandex like materials like Lycra. Some brands create blend materials of Lycra and natural fibres. The stretch is maintained while the cotton absorbs perspiration.
Other factors that differentiate the clothing are the fabric yarn counts, knit patterns, structures and elasticity levels.Other factors that differ are the fabric yarn counts, knit patterns, structures and elasticity levels.
For the lower body, shorts, pants and leggings will provide support for your butt, hips, knees, legs and thighs.
For your ankles and feet, full length stockings and socks will do the job.
The torso and arms can be covered by shirts and vests. The shirts can be sleeveless, short and long sleeved. There are also compression sleeves that work exclusively on the arms.
Innovation in the industry continues and there are new products being developed. Some garments exert pressure on muscle groups using thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) membrane layers that are on the surface of the textile.
From taping qualities to compression clothing that increases pressure as the runner moves, manufacturers are clearly trying to improve the products and increase the benefits of their use.
Costs vary depending on the type of clothing and brand. Popular brands include Speedo, Under Amour, Nike, Adidas and Champion.
Wearing compression clothing is a personal choice.
Finding the right fit will depend on your needs. It is advisable to make sure you have no medical conditions that compression clothing would complicate like pregnancy and other physical ailments.
Take the following features into account when making a decision:
- Body shape
- Mechanical properties of the material(s)
- Length of running event
These garments can be worn while running and after running. Those with lower compression are best used post running because the heart rate and activity levels are lowered.
Use of these garments should be done sparingly. The body can get too dependent on them and this is not healthy.
British Triathlete Kimberley Morrison says that “Compression garments support the race, training stress and recovery in my day-to-day life. Performance is key each and every day when we strive to better our best. If we can perform optimally and reduce stress and increase rest, as athletes we’ll get stronger, fitter and faster.”