Ask any professional athlete or amateur weekend warrior, and they'll tell you that the two most important aspects of sports equipment are "Can it improve my performance?" and "Can it help me recover more quickly from that performance?" It's the Holy Grail of fitness, and scientists, engineers and a host of other professions that wear pocket protectors spend millions of dollars and man hours to try coming up with something - anything - that shows measurable performance improvements in both areas. Thankfully for everyone who lifts, runs, throws or moves in a competitive manner, these pocket protector-wearing wizards occasionally come up with something that actually works, like the dual-benefits gained with the compression apparel technology.
Compression Wear, the What and the When
Even if you are the most casual of sports watchers, you've likely noticed over the past decade that the majority of professional athletes in baseball, basketball, football and more are all wearing some form of compression clothing
. Knee and Elbow sleeves, calf tubes, compression shirts and shorts, if you have a body area with a muscle or a system of blood veins or vessels, you can probably find a piece of compression wear designed to fit. While it seems like compression garments are a relatively new technology, it's actually been around in some form for over 50 years.
Compression apparel was originally designed to fulfill a medical need for patients with circulatory conditions. By compressing an area, it increased the venous return, which is the rate which a branch of veins sends blood back to the heart. And, for some basic anatomy, the faster that an area pumps blood to the heart, the faster that blood flows back into that area. Blood, of course carries oxygen and other elements that heal muscle and other tissue, so improving and steadying the flow equals good for the muscles.
A Laundry List of Benefits
There have been more studies than you could count on the efficacy of compression clothing. One company, SKINS, has had more brand-specific studies done than any other, and have advanced the technology to the point where they now offer compression apparel with what's known as "dynamic gradient compression" that understands how your muscle configuration and shape change when you move, and have fine-tuned the compression process to the point where it compresses most where it's most needed, thereby increasing overall muscle performance. There are others that are infused with copper material, which adds an anti-microbial element to reduce body odor and germs in that area. The copper compression folks also often claim that the copper delivers positive ions which affect health and wellness, well, positively.
Regardless of whether copper delivers any elemental mojo, compression wear
technology is now widely accepted as being beneficial to both muscle health and performance. That extra blood flow means you remove lactic acid faster, increase your endurance a little, speed your recovery a little and even help reduce the likelihood of certain types of muscle injuries. If you play a sport, even occasionally, or if you like to take long walks or hike/bike the trail, you owe it to yourself to at least.