Written by Melissa Hurley
You may have seen people on TV or in the gym wearing high socks, arm sleeves or spandex tights and wondered “Why are they wearing that?”. Yes, some look particularly nice in the spandex and gentlemen – please wear shorts over your tights. But the goal isn’t aesthetics – it’s something much greater: Performance, Recovery, and Injury Prevention.
Here’s how compression gear works: Compression gear squeezes blood vessels, causing them to open forcefully; this allows more blood and oxygen into the compressed muscle and helps shunt waste. This “in-with-the-good-out-with-the-bad” increases the working muscle’s capacity to produce energy. Applied pressure has also been shown to increase the body’s awareness for improved posture, agility and stability.
Research conducted by the University of Newcastle found that lower body compression garments increase blood flow and reduce heart rate during high-intensity endurance running, supporting the theory that compression socks should improve performance.
Recovery – Reduced Soreness
Pounding, jaring, bounding, and striking all send vibration up the leg and cause muscles to shake. This is thought to damage muscles and add to post-exercise soreness. Compression apparel secures the muscles in place to prevent muscular breakdown.
But does it really happen?
Research conducted by Massey University in Auckland found that there was a reduction in delayed-onset muscle soreness 24 hours after exercise when wearing graduated compression stockings after a fast-paced 10K road run. Interestingly, this study found that soreness was reduced specifically in the compressed muscle region. Ninety-three percent of subjects who ran without compression socks experienced lower leg soreness a day after the run, but only 14 percent of the subjects who ran with the socks had similar soreness.
By creating extra blood flow, wearing compression after exercise is purported to expedite the removal of metabolic waste and re-introduce the substances muscles require to rebuild. Improved circulation also helps to eliminate lactic acid build up and other metabolic wastes during intense exercise.
But does it really happen?
There is some research to support countless anecdotes from athletes and air travelers who claim their legs feel fresher after wearing compression. I don’t leave home without my compression socks if I have to fly. The socks have made a significant difference in my circulation. I’m able to avoiding swelling in my feet, ankles and calves while traveling.
Scientists at the University of Exeter measured recovery with three strength exercises conducted one, two, three and four days after soreness-inducing plyometric exercise. They found that wearing compression for 24 hours following exercise improved performance in all three strength tests and reduced the soreness perceived by the subjects.
In a study published in the February issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and broken down on Runner’s World’s Sweat Science blog, cyclists rode 40-kilometer time trials, than did the time trials again the next day. During the 24 hours between rides, the cyclists were given tights to wear, but they weren’t told that some were wearing basic spandex tights and the others compression. A week later, they did the trial again, except this time those who had worn spandex the week before got compression tights and vice versa. On the second-day rides, cyclists went 1.2 percent faster when they wore compressing gear during recovery as opposed to spandex.
Medical professionals have long recommended compression for patients looking to improve blood circulation and overall leg health. Backed by medi’s 60+ years of experience, CEP uses the science behind medical compression to help athletes maximize performance and recovery.
For the athlete, improving arterial blood flow is the key to peaking performance. CEP compression socks apply consistent compression to the calf, allowing the arterial walls to relax and the flow of oxygen-rich blood to increase by up to 40%. More oxygen means more power during performance and a faster recovery.
Graduated medical grade compression that is tighter at the ankle improves vein health by reducing the veins’ diameter and pushing de-oxygenated blood back to the heart.
Proven to Reduce Injury
Shin Splints: Reduces vibration, increase oxygen and promotes healing.
Calf Cramps: Increase oxygen to optimize muscles, removes lactic acid.
Achille Issues: Increases oxygen to the Achilles; padding prevents damage.
Pulled Muscles: Increases blood flow to increase warmth in the muscle.
Traveling Issues: Graduated compression prevents venous reflux and pooling.
Should you buy some compression gear?
I know I’m a believer; mainly, because of the obvious cankles (ankle + calf) I get after traveling if I don’t wear my compression socks. Mental or physical, I don’t know, but I also feel compression gear helps me recover in my multiple workouts or competitions. Do I believe they improve my performance? There are too many variables to really say. Research continues to be done and if you like statistics and facts look further into the studies.