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  • Writer's pictureChuck Johns

6 Compression Wear Myths Answered

One of the current trends in workout attire is compression wear, which has seen a notable surge in popularity over the last few years. Compression gear has been an increasingly familiar sight in gyms and workout centers the world over, with different brands cashing in on the trend and working to provide people with quality compression wear that provides the benefits that the aforementioned attire's tight, snug fit can offer the body. Athletes and people just wanting to get in shape, or keep in shape, alike have embraced the benefits that such attire provides.

Importantly, it's not just physical fitness buffs who have taken to compression wear: compression socks and stockings and the like have, after all, been prescribed by doctors for decades. Whether it's workers whose jobs require them to sit or stand for long hours, older citizens whose blood circulation could use some assistance, or travelers and commuters who have to contend with long car or plane rides, compression wear has provided its circulatory benefits to many people long before the trend became a trend -- and, indeed, this is something that compression attire companies have also been aware of and have worked to provide quality product for.

However, as with any trend, sales and familiarity sometimes grow faster than people's awareness or understanding of the facts does, and so some myths and misconceptions can arise around the product in question. Indeed, even about compression wear, there are some myths that need to be corrected.

1. Compression is only appropriate for those who are injured or recovering from injury, so people working out (or even ordinary people not at a gym) don't need it.

Well, first of all, people recovering from injury can and do benefit from wearing compression attire. The compression helps circulation, which helps oxygenate the affected joints and muscles and allows them to heal with increased efficiency. Of course, they aren't the only ones who can benefit from this. Compression helps stave off problems that come of slow poor circulation, including deep vein thrombosis, which happens when blood starts to pool in our veins rather than efficiently and smoothly flowing through them.

2. I don't feel I need compression wear to perform at my best.

This is something of a mixed bag, as not everyone will FEEL the need for compression wear. But the injured aren't the only ones who use compression wear -- it's popular among athletes for a reason, and the pros aren't the only ones who should benefit from it. Many brands will stand by their compression products, saying these help limit vibrations, reduce or delay the onset of fatigue, and help prevent soreness.

3. I’ve heard there is no research to support the benefits of compression wear.

At least two meta-analyses from 2013 and 2014, and likely more from more recent years, have examined numerous (40) scientific studies that looked into the benefits of compression wear (a meta-analysis is a study that analyzes a large number of studies). The results generally show that compression wear does induce better performances and aids in recovery, with the outliers being attributed to other factors like not using the right compression type.

Compression is a fairly new trend in the sports world, and so examinations are still ongoing. While it may be tempting to dismiss benefits by saying they are merely perceptual and caused by the placebo effect, this would seem to be a disservice to those respondents who genuinely claim that the garments have made them feel better and perform more effectively and confidently.

4. Only the muscles activated with compression wear will get stronger, while the other muscles not covered won't, and might even get weaker.

Compression attire doesn't "activate" muscles. It supports muscles, which can then perform more precisely. Muscles that aren't covered by the garments will be able to perform just fine. The compression isn't something that somehow makes the muscles work better -- although the circulation does benefit, it's not a super-suit or superhero costume that optimizes body functions to an unrealistic degree.

5. I’ve heard that it’s dangerous to use compression wear too much.

Generally, the only real danger to compression wear is when you select compression that is too strong or constricting. Work with your doctor to determine which is the optimal amount of compression pressure for you. Otherwise, the general idea is not to use it for everything, but not because it's dangerous to do too much -- more because you don't really need it for everything.

6. Warm weather makes it unbearable to wear compression attire.

This seems like an intuitive thing to guess when talking about compression wear, given how tight and snug it is, and given the materials we assume are used in its construction. The reality is that many companies making such products recognize this and have planned ahead, making their products out of breathable fibers. Some use fabrics that evaporate moisture in certain ways, while others use materials that optimize thermoregulation.



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