Project Description

Can Compression Clothing Improve Your Workout?

A growing number of athletes and average exercisers wear compression garments because of their their alleged ability to enhance athletic performance and aid recovery. Learn whether those claims are a stretch.


THE CLAIM: Compression garments are beneficial for exercise.

Elite athletes and average exercisers alike swear by tight-fitting sleeves, shorts, socks and other compression garments which are said to boost athletic performance and aid recovery. While there’s some evidence for these claims, they are, for the most part, a stretch.

Compression garments have long been used to treat certain medical conditions. The fact that they increase blood flow to muscles supposedly helps with exercise.

Some research has found that the garments may improve performance a bit for high-intensity activities such as sprinting or vertical jumping.

But many other studies, involving sports ranging from cycling to marathon running, have shown no effects on performance.

The evidence is stronger when it comes to post-exercise recovery. Compression gear may help reduce muscle soreness and swelling, which can begin 12 to 24 hours after a workout and last for several days.

But there’s a catch: to see results, you have to wear the clothing after you’re through exercising, ideally for a couple of days. For many of us, that may not be practical or comfortable.

If you like the way compression clothes feel and look, there’s no harm in wearing them. Even if they don’t make you stronger and faster, they may make you feel you are. That alone may be worth the price.

For the truth about more fitness-related claims, check out my book, Fitter Faster. You’ll also learn how to slash your workout time and get even better results.

Helping you be a healthy skeptic, I’m Robert Davis.