Do Compression Tights Work

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Amelia Phillips

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Flashback to six or more years ago and you wouldn’t see guys caught dead in Lycra, let a lone long tights that, ahem, don’t leave much to the imagination!

So what’s changed? Is the compression gear going to improve your performance in your chosen sport or exercise?

History Of Compression Tights

Compression gear in some form has been around for years in the medical field.

Stockings or ‘long socks’ are still used for ‘circulatory and inflammatory disorders’ (The Sport and Exercise Scientist) as well as post- operatively to promote ‘venous’ blood flow, and to avoid thrombosis. One thing to point here though, medical stockings are considerably higher in ‘compression’ than in the commercial ones, nevertheless similar principles apply to both.

Straight onto the Skins and 2XU website (leading brands in compression gear) and they will tell you when you apply compression in a ‘balanced and accurate way’ it has these performance and recovery benefits:

  • Accelerates blood flow (circulation) to your muscles for a faster, safer warm up;
  • Aids your body in getting ‘rid of lactic acid’;
  • Reduces muscle fatigue and damage – improving endurance;
  • Increase vertical jump height and repetitive jump power;
  • Improves agility and mobility (the pressure to the surface of the skin increases sensory awareness);
  • Faster recovery and reducing muscle soreness

You can get long tights, half tights, long sleeve tops, power shorts, crop tops calf tights and even leg sleeves. Any sport – running, golf, triathlon, snow and cycling – they have you covered.

But Do They Work? 

From a scientific research perspective however the jury is still out. Two studies released in 2010 (both by Indiana University), found no impact on running performance when “highly trained distance runners wore lower-leg sleeves”. Similarly Duffield et al. in 2010 investigated full-body garments and found no differences in performance, change in strength or lactate accumulation.

An area that research seems to agree however is the benefits for recovery. The supporting evidence shows that compression gear improves blood flow, resulting in faster recovery (Canada 2012). The Aussies put rugby players in long tights for recovery runs on a treadmill and discovered that compression helped remove lactate from their blood, while the University of Connecticut researchers put men and women in “whole body compression garments” after intense weightlifting found that they helped reduce fatigue, inflammation and muscle soreness.

So it appears despite the lack of evidence to back up all its benefits, the compression gear continues to grow in popularity. Perhaps one could argue that the athletes and budding athletes alike are ahead of the science.

If it works for you, then I say it’s more appealing than jumping into a bath full of ice for recovery, right?

Have you ever tried compression tights? What’s your preferred brand? 

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