Feeling the squeeze: the benefits of compression sportswear​

Compression leggings / Image source: The Sports Edit

Compression leggings / Image source: The Sports Edit

Feeling the squeeze: the benefits of compression sportswear

Many of us have a couple of outfits that we regularly wear to exercise and will rotate depending on the activity. Maybe you have a favourite top that stays in place during your downward dog or a pair of socks that gives you extra support on longer runs. And we don’t really consider how our clothing can help us achieve our fitness goals.

If you aren’t familiar with compression sport clothing, it’s time to learn about how these specialty design products may elevate our workouts.

Compression garments are skin-tight, yet flexible clothing made of supportive fabric like Spandex and Lycra. It is graded in its tightness to ease blood flow, it features wicking properties to reduce sweat pooling and keep you warm, whilst still allowing freedom of movement. Compression sportswear molds to your body to prevent the oscillation of the muscle during impact and increasing blood flow to the area. This is thought to prevent energy waste and assist in alignment. Additionally, the increase of blood flow ensures muscles are receiving a constant supply of oxygen, which helps sustain performance or enhance recovery.

Benefits of compression sportswear gear have been reported to include a reduction in muscle fatigue and soreness, faster recovery, reduction of swelling, improvement of blood flow, muscle strain prevention, skin protection, improved joint stabilization and muscle alignment, an increase in agility, and regulating body temperature.

That’s a lot to put on a pair of tights or a long-sleeved top … but is it true? Well, yes and no.

While there have not been conclusive studies on compression garments, and much of the evidence is with small groups of people or anecdotal, studies do exist that show the benefits of oxygen uptake to working muscles. There is also a small amount of research documenting how compression wear has reduced blood lactate levels after workouts.

And then, there’s our old friend the placebo effect. Any perceived performance improvements may be a result in how you feel wearing compression gear. Because you feel supported, you allow yourself to squat deeper or run longer. As we know, so much about exercise is mental rather than physical. Compression sportswear garments can stop the voices of self-doubt in your head and that’s a benefit we can all embrace.

Compression clothing is more expensive than what you’ll find in trendy workout stores or on the rack at Winners so you need to decide if it’s actually worth investing in a few key pieces to supplement your wardrobe. If you feel like a $150 pair of leggings is out of your budget (and for many of us it is), check the sale sections on websites like EC3D Sports or 2XU. You will be able to order last season’s products at a discount and make a decision if they are right for you.

If you have a race or big event coming up that will require extra support, a mental boost, and a speedier recovery, it might be time to treat yourself. After all, you don’t need to worry about hiking up your shorts as you dash through an obstacle at Tough Mudder. Just make sure that you have an opportunity to take your purchase on a test drive first to ensure that you like its fit and feel.

They’re berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.com

Handful of acai berries / Image source: Mayo Clinic News Network

They’re berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Raspberries? Blueberries? Strawberries? Pffft. Been there, ate that.

I kid. I’m not really slagging them. Whatever your preference, berries typically deliver high amounts of Vitamin C, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. You see them in a wide variety of dishes from jams to juices to pancakes, where they add colour and a wide spectrum of flavours ranging from sweet to sour and beyond. Today we look at three lesser-known but ultra-healthy members of the berry family.

Acai berries and power / Image source: evolution-slimming.comAcai berries

Among the best known exotic berries, acai berries are native to the Brazilian Amazon region and are popular for their high  antioxidant content. In fact, they may contain up to ten times as much antioxidant polyphenols as blueberries. Acai berries have been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels and post-exercise oxidative stress.

Acai berry fans tout many other possible health benefits for these Brazilian berries, including heart and skin health, weight loss, energy boost, anti-aging properties, and more. And no list of possible health claims would be complete, of course, without references to the male libido; acai berries are said to help in this regard by promoting increased blood circulation. 

Acai berries are perishable, and thus are usually shipped frozen. They can be used in juices and powders and eaten with yogurt, cereals, and desserts.

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.comGoji berries

Traditionally used as a medicinal food in China, goji berries have a sweet taste tinged with a little sour and are often marketed in dried form. In addition to being potent sources of Vitamin A and copper, goji berries are high in  zeaxanthin, making them a powerful supplement to eye health. They also contain antioxidant polyphenols, which can protect against ultraviolet light. Other possible benefits include boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of cancer.

Some research draws links between goji berries and sexual performance, and even suggests that they can function as an alternative to medications such as Viagra.

Goji berries can be used in smoothies, yogurt, cereal, salads, and more. You can also enjoy them by the handful like raisins.

Fresh bilberries / Image source: linnea.chBilberries

Bilberries are similar to blueberries but are smaller, softer, and darker. They are good sources of fibre and Vitamin C, and are said to help reduce inflammation, blood sugar, and cholesterol. One study tied them to weight loss and reduced waist circumference. Other potential benefits include stronger blood vessels and better circulation, prevention of cell damage, possible reduction in blood glucose levels, and treating diarrhea and nausea. 

Like the other berries, bilberries are a good source of dietary antioxidants, manganese, zinc, and iron. Bilberry extract has been cited as an effective defense against a number of eye problems, including some tied to aging. The fruit is also said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Bilberries can be used in preserves, pies, jams, and tarts. The juice can be enjoyed straight or used as the basis for liqueurs and syrups. Even the leaves can be used to brew tea!

Bottom line

Like their better-known cousins, today’s berries pack a healthy punch. They’re low in calories but high in fibre, and excellent sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And their lively flavours can help reduce cravings for sugary snacks. In short, there are berry good reasons to make them part of your daily diet!

Disclaimer: this site is not offering professional medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about these foods and your health, ask your family doctor or a qualified nutritionist.

Improve flexibility, reduce stress, boost circulation: don’t forget stretching after working out

athlete exercise fitness stretching / image credit: pixabay.com

Improve flexibility, reduce stress, boost circulation: don’t forget stretching after a workout

So you’ve finished a workout. You’ve taken an hour for yourself and pounded it out on the treadmill, kept up pace in spin class, or sweated it out lifting weights. It’s time to move on with your day. You take a moment before heading out the studio door. Should you spend time stretching? Do you really need to lie down and pull yourself into a deflated pretzel before removing your sweaty clothes? Is stretching that important?

The answer is yes. Stretching is essential. If you haven’t stretched, you haven’t completed your workout. It’s easy to ignore stretching — especially when you’re in a rush. However, if you aren’t stretching you’re missing the full benefits of your workout.

The most obvious benefit of stretching is improving flexibility and range of motion. This ultimately improves your physical performance and helps reduce risk of injury. In aiding your range of motion, your body requires less energy to make the same movements. This makes future workouts more efficient.

Flexibility isn’t the only benefit from stretching. A 2013 study evaluated how heart attack patients responded to stretching as part of their rehabilitation. Among the findings: regular stretching improves circulation. This increases blood flow to your muscles — which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness. If your muscles are already contracted because you haven’t stretched, they will be less effective during exercise. Regular stretching will relax all of your muscles and enable them to be more available during exercise.

The benefits of stretching aren’t purely physical. There are mental advantages as well. Stretching is a great way to alleviate stress. A buildup of stress causes your muscles to contract, making you feel tense and uneasy. It also encourages the release of endorphins, providing a sense of tranquility and euphoria.

Now that we’ve outlined just some of the benefits of stretching, you need to incorporate it into your routine. There are also a number of apps, like lolo fit’s Performance Stretching, that can guide you through a varied routine that you customize based on your workout. Whether it’s stretching with a foam roller or post-running, these apps target the muscle groups that need attention — relieving you of the guesswork associated with determining the best stretch for your activity.

So it’s time to stop thinking of stretching as a luxury and embrace it as a necessity. You’ll feel stronger, more flexible, and happier.