Compression clothing doesn't influence athletic performance

Posted By: Staff

Washington, June 4 (ANI): A new study from a researcher at Indiana University suggests that the new fad of athletes wearing compression clothing to enhance performance has in fact little influence.

Abigail Laymon's study found that lower leg compression garments did not impact a runner's oxygen consumption, which meant there was no change in running economy or efficiency.

The study also found that calf compression garments did not have an effect on running mechanics.

Laymon examined the impact a lower leg compression garment made by Zensah-basically, a more compressive tall sock that begins just above the ankle and goes a little below the knee-had on a runner's running mechanics and running economy.

Lower leg compression garments have gained popularity in the professional field of distance running, despite a lack of solid research supporting their use.

"Distance runners may try them out initially, because they see other runners using them with success," Laymon said. "Since some runners are somewhat superstitious, they may continue to use them if they happen to have a good race and attribute it to the compression."

Sixteen highly trained male distance runners were recruited this study. Each subject had to complete two 12-minute running tests -one with lower leg compression and one without. During each test, the subjects had to run at three speeds: a 6.55 minute per mile pace, a 6 minute per mile pace, and a 5.21 per mile pace. During the tests, the runners spent four minutes at each speed.

Running economy is the amount of energy one expends on a given workload. Mechanics and economy are linked -- the more unnecessary motion that is exerted while running will usually result in a greater waste of energy resulting in a worse economy.

To study a runner's economy, Laymon measured the runner's oxygen consumption at three different running speeds. Lower oxygen consumption indicated better economy. The subjects ran at each speed with and without lower leg compression. However, the study found that the runners' economy did not change when wearing the garment.

The runners' mechanics were not affected as well. Laymon found no differences in ground contact time, stride length or stride frequency.

"Highly trained runners have an ingrained running style, so changing it is difficult. Typically they have already selected the best running style for themselves. An intervention like compression may not affect them, especially a commercially available grade of compression that is slightly more compressive than a sock," Laymon said.

Although overall the study found that the compression garment had no effect on running mechanics and economy, there was some variation. Four subjects had an average of greater than one percent increase in oxygen consumption-their economy worsened while wearing the compression garment. However, four other subjects experienced a greater than one percent decrease in oxygen consumption-their economy improved-while wearing the compression garment.

Laymon had her subjects complete a subjective questionnaire about their feelings toward compression garments before completing their tests.

It turned out that the subjects who experienced improvement in their economy were more likely to have a favourable attitude toward compressive wear and believed that by wearing the compressive garment their racing would improve.

"Overall, with these compressive sleeves and the level of compression that they exert, they don't seem to really do much.

However, there may be a psychological component to compression's effects. Maybe if you have this positive feeling about it and you like them then it may work for you. It is a very individual response," Laymon said. (ANI)

Story first published: Friday, June 4, 2010, 14:31 [IST]
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