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Compression Clothing: Should I Take the Plunge?

Among athletes, compression clothing is a hot topic. Some attest that its benefits include improving exercise endurance, exercise performance, and post-workout recovery. However, when the New York Times dove into these claims in January, they reported that the science was mixed, even though a meta-analysis of 30 studies found a small to moderate benefit from compression clothing on some aspects of performance and recovery.

A half-year later, with the Summer Olympics close at hand, the New York Times has revisited the topic; in part because many Olympians will be wearing compression sleeves on their arms and legs. This has prompted many of us to ask ourselves if these garments might benefit us, too. According to the New York Times, current evidence, which includes a new meta-analysis published in April in Sports Medicine, suggests that compression clothing has no benefit on exercise performance. This may be because compression clothing is supposed to boost blood flow, but blood flow is already at its maximum during exercise. On the other hand, according to a professor of sport science interviewed in the article, evidence is trending in favor of compression clothing’s merits when it comes to aiding recovery immediately after a workout, when increased blood flow might help remove some of exercise’s byproducts in the muscles. This, in turn, could reduce inflammation and muscle aches. Bottom line? If the clothing’s tightness doesn’t bother you for the several hours it needs to be worn, and the clothing’s post-workout smell is tolerable, follow the Olympians’ lead—they may be on to something.

Source: New York Times

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