Recent years have seen a huge growth in the number of athletes wearing specially-designed compression wear, either as a base layer or on its own in warm weather.
The term compression wear is used to describe garments that fit closely to the body (‘form-fitting’) and exert a level of compression on the muscles, with a range of benefits.
Many compression wear garments will also have features such as UV protection and microbial treatment, making them a popular choice for athletes training in all weathers.
There are many different types of compression wear available from tights and leggings to long- and short-sleeve tops as well as calf guards and underwear.
The benefits of compression sportswear is that it encourages increased blood flow to and from the muscles as well as increased lymphatic flow.
This helps to:
Improve performance: Accelerated blood flow means more oxygen to working muscles, which boosts the work they can do.
Prevent strain: Keeping muscles warm and supplied with oxygenated blood helps to prevent fatigue which can lead to muscle strain. Compression sportswear will also be made from a synthetic material with high wicking properties – i.e. it works to move sweat away from the surface of the skin, so keeping the body warm and dry and preventing chafing.
Aid recovery: Compression wear is also said to help the body to get rid of lactic acid and other toxins, and to delay the onset of muscle soreness. Post-exercise compression wear is believed to enhance circulation, aiding in recovery and muscle repair.
The additional muscle support provided by many compression wear garments – keeping muscles squeezed in place rather than allowing them to vibrate – is also said to help prevent muscle injury. Compression garments worn on the legs (calf guards) are believed by many runners to help prevent deep-vein thrombosis and painful injuries such as shin splints.