Part 1 of our three-parter on compression wear focused on defining compression: what it is, how it works, and if it's for you. Next up, our resident compression enthusiast Nick takes a look at the benefits of compression.
The benefits of compression
Now that you know what compression where is and what it's used for, let’s take a closer look at each perceived benefit.
Reduced muscle fatigue during exercise
The argument here is that compression increases venous blood flow, partially offsetting the effects of gravity, which encourages blood to gather at the lower extremities. Graduated compression tights or socks (higher pressure at the ankle/lower extremities) help blood flow back towards the heart, improving oxygenation.
Oxygen is the key fuel to muscles during exercise. When they don’t have enough oxygen, lactic acid starts to build up, causing that familiar burning sensation and tiredness. To reduce this during exercise you need to deliver oxygen to muscles more efficiently, and advocates argue compression garments pushing deoxygenated blood back up towards the heart can help this process. Wearing compression garments may also improve warm-up through faster increases in skin temperature, reducing injury risk.
Reduced muscle soreness and better recovery
Mainly relevant for high impact training, reduced muscle vibration/oscillation is visible through the leg muscles and tendons when the foot strikes the ground when running. Compression leggings support the muscles through movement, minimizing vibration. This can have an impact both on the associated fatigue during exercise, and help reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness – the soreness typically felt 24-72 hours after exercise).
Improving circulation of oxygen to muscles post exercise can also accelerate muscle recovery.
This is the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position, and by applying compression there are supposed benefits in the body’s ability to sense and locate movement, improving posture and stability, and potentially efficiency of movement.
The most controversial and debated claims relate to performance enhancement during exercise. The argument goes that: reducing muscle oscillations/vibrations can aid performance by slowing the reduction in power caused by muscle fatigue --> more efficient blood oxygenation and clearing of lactic acid build up from muscles reduces fatigue and soreness --> this helps endurance.
Help reduce DVT risk
Through improved blood circulation, compression socks reduce swelling in feet and ankles, lowering the risk of blood clots, or DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) whilst on long distance flights and journeys. We carry men’s and women’s compression socks for this purpose.
do they work?
As mentioned in Compression Leggings 101, scientific research in this area is a mixed bag and any ‘proof’ is somewhat elusive. Our view -- based on a wide range of studies reviewed -- is that; 1) DVT risk reduction is clinically proven and 2) improved recovery and reduced DOMS is an increasingly accepted benefit. One added un-scientific benefit is that compression leggings are super flattering, which may motivate you to work out a little harder since you'll look and feel great!
On that note, next up in the third and final part of this series: Nick takes us through our compression wear offerings so you can shop for your tights or shorts with confidence! Stay tuned...
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