For more than five decades, compression wear has been used across the medical field in an effort to improve and lessen some of the symptoms related to edema (swelling), diabetes, and vein disorders. Like the majority of tools used in sport and fitness today, compression garments have jumped into the world of professional and hobbyist runners, sported by superstars like Paula Radcliffe and Chris Solinsky.
However, as popular as high quality compression wear is, there's still a great deal of ambiguity surrounding its effectiveness in terms of performance and recovery. While the people who use compression garments swear by their usefulness, scientists have conducted studies that both support, and reject the idea that compression wear actually makes a difference.
Does Compression Wear Really Work? Performance:
The question "Does compression wear really work?" is not only complicated because of the contradictory data in science today, but also because it depends on whether you're referring to performance, recovery, or another idea entirely. A study conducted by Abagail Laymon from Indiana University was conducted with a focus on the relationship between compression garments and running. The research found that while there was no group difference in running performance with the sleeves, the individual responses to lower-leg compression varied significantly.
While the information that links compression garments and performance enhancement is currently lacking, there have been numerous studies that help to keep the concept alive. For instance, German researchers found that athletes wearing compression sleeves could hit a higher speed and run for longer than individuals not wearing compression garments. Similarly, other studies indicate that compression can boost performance in other activities too. For instance, Australian researchers saw an increase concentration of oxygen in the muscles of cyclists using compression sleeves when they compared them to other individuals not using compression wear.
Does Compression Wear Really Work? Recovery:
Importantly however, even the studies that didn't find performance benefits in participants using compression sleeves, or failed to measure them at all, identified numerous benefits in the recovery process. While the precise reasons why compression wear was helpful remain uncertain, research suggests that compression garments may enhance the rate of cellular turnover in damaged muscle after exercise, therefore reducing inflammation and accelerating the recovery process.
A wide range of research actually supports the idea that compression garments are particularly effective when it comes to managing the soreness and pain associated with post-workout repair. To some degree, it's worth keeping these connections in mind when considering the real benefits of compression wear, and how the garments may have an impact on overall performance. After all, better and faster recovery is likely to translate into better performance for athletes and general runners alike. If you recover faster after an injury or a particularly tough run, then you're far more likely to push yourself further when you're on the track, practice more often, and develop your skills.
What's more, the next workout you take part in will be determined by the quality of your previous recovery. As without good recovery levels, you won't be able to achieve the most from your body.