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Compressive clothes for running: Science or Faith?

The runners of different performance levels and expertise in different events (from 800 meters to marathons) wear socks, sleeves, shorts and / or socks with compression (the latter and socks are very common) to improve performance and facilitate their recovery.

To date, the effects of compression clothing have been examined with a variety of operating protocols, including submaximal treadmill tests and even exhaustion and racing distances.

Few of these investigations have involved real or simulated competitions that exceed one hour in duration and will take place outdoors, while others have applied compression garments only during recovery for 12, 48 or 72 hours.

In recent years, a series of publications on the influence of compression garments on career performance and the perception of different intensities and career durations have reported contradictory findings.

For all this, a recent systematic review has reviewed the available literature on compression garments and the race and its efficiency in performance and recovery , identifying the evidence-based application of compression garments in relation to distance traveled and developing recommendations on the use of compression garments for distance runners.

Marketed to improve performance and accelerate recovery

Originally compressive garments were invented in the field of medicine to improve tissue recovery and blood circulation , being used for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis (especially socks and compression stockings).

Later these garments were transferred to sports and now they are marketed as a tool to improve performance and recovery .

For example, the use of compression socks during training aims to help “pump” the skeletal muscle, increase deep venous velocity, and / or decrease the concentration of blood in the calf veins and relieve late muscle pain. .

Despite the many benefits that, a priori, compressive garments bring, two of them, as I have commented previously, seem to be the main reasons that justify their rapid expansion: the improvement of performance and a faster recovery after workouts and the races.

Slight improvements in endurance performance and positive effects in reducing muscle pain, damage and inflammation

After analyzing 32 studies with almost 500 participants, the results of a recent systematic review showed that compression garments did not have significant effects on running performance ( marathon times , 5, 10 and 15 kilometer races and 400 meters sprint) , maximum and submaximal oxygen consumption , blood lactate concentrations, blood gas kinetics, cardiac parameters (including heart rate, cardiac output, cardiac index and stroke volume), body and perceived temperature or the performance of tasks related to strength after running.

Understanding garments can slightly improve different performance variables in runners, in addition to reducing muscle pain, damage and inflammation

However, compression garments showed small positive effects for time to exhaustion , race economy (including biomechanical variables such as ground contact time, frequency and step length and swing time), blood lactate elimination , perceived exertion, maximum voluntary isometric contraction and maximal muscle power of the legs immediately after running, and markers of muscle damage and inflammation.

The core body temperature ( core ) was moderately affected by compression, while the large positive effects were reported post-exercise pain in the legs and the delayed onset of muscle fatigue .

Therefore, current results suggest that by wearing compression clothing, runners can slightly improve the variables related to endurance performance (ie, time to exhaustion), due to improvements in running economy, biomechanical variables , perception and muscle temperature, while also benefiting from these garments through the reduction of muscle pain, damage and inflammation .

Maybe not everyone will do well or like them, but as they do not carry risks and if they can bring benefits, you can try to use compression garments when you go out to run and draw your own personal conclusions .


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