Why compression clothes

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I divide so called 'compression' clothes into two categories; Graduated Compression and Form Fitting. Graduated Compression clothes provide sufficient pressure to make a difference to your body, whereas Form Fitting provides no pressure, but does follow the contours of your body. Typically form fitting uses a compression of 0-8 mmHg, graduated compression 10-30 mmHg. By comparison, medical compression sleeves are 30-40 mmHg.

1 Graduated Compression

Graduated compression clothing provides differing levels of compression, highest at the ankle and reducing towards the torso. There is evidence[1] that graduated compression clothing will improve running performance, though not by raising VO2max. Interestingly, a study[2] showed a moderate (though not statistically significant) improvement in running performance with graduated compression clothing even in hot (32C/90F) conditions.

There is also evidence for the use of graduated compression clothes in recovery. One study[3] showed a reduction in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in untrained women who wore compression arm sleeves for 5 days after eccentric exercise. Another study[4] of Rugby players showed improved post-match recovery from compression garments. A study[5] using Skins compression suggested that wearing compression garments in the recovery from eccentric exercise (downhill walking) may alter the inflammatory response to damage and accelerate the repair processes inside of the muscle.

2 Form Fitting

Some athletic clothes that are called 'compression' really provide little pressure. Mostly these are really 'form fitting', flexible clothing that touch the skin rather than being loose. There are a number of advantages of compression clothing over loose...

  • When you are cold, and therefore not sweating, compression clothing will trap the air next to the skin and keep you warmer than lose clothing.
  • When you are hot, and therefore sweating, compression clothing will spread out the sweat to that it evaporates more efficiently. The evaporation cools the compression clothes, which being next to the skin, helps keep you cool. Very thin compression clothing will keep you cooler than bare skin. With bare skin, the sweat will drip off your body with little cooling effect.
  • Compression clothing moves far less than lose clothing, reducing chafing. On longer runs, chafing can be a significant source of pain. While lubricants like body glide can help prevent chafing, I believe it is better to have a longer term solution in the form of non-chafing clothing.

The only downside of compression clothing is that it reveals the underlying body shape. For some, this is psychologically uncomfortable. Lose clothing can be worn over the compression layer. While this may be less effective than just the compression layer in warm conditions, it may be better than just the lose layer.

Examples of form fitting clothing include Race Ready Shorts and Tights and UnderArmour HeatGear Top.

3 See Also

4 References

  1. Effect of Compression Stockings on Running Performance in Men Runners http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2009/01000/Effect_of_Compression_Stockings_on_Running.16.aspx
  2. Effect of lower body compression garments on submaximal and maximal running performance in cold (10°C) and hot (32°C) environments http://www.springerlink.com/content/85x1567h235k7371/
  3. Influence of compression therapy on symptoms following soft tissue injury from maximal eccentric exercise. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11411623
  4. Effectiveness of post-match recovery strategies in rugby players http://bjsportmed.com/content/40/3/260.abstract
  5. Compression Garments And Recovery From Eccentric Exercise: A 31p-Mrs Study http://www.jssm.org/vol5/n1/12/v5n1-12text.php