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.