The more society develops, the clearer it is that there are plenty of overlaps to be observed between fields. Fashion, for instance, is commonly dismissed and derided as off in its own little world of Oscar de la Renta gowns and fancy walkways from iconic European capitals. On the other hand, fitness is a staple of daily life, especially these days, where people have come to embrace going to the gym or making time for yoga to the point of integrating them into the day-to-day schedule as tightly as possible, even with a ton of things to do each day.
However, there’s always been a degree of meeting in the middle for these two fields. The pop culture of the 1980s established aerobics wear and the like as very fashionable, and new designs popped up and made good use of the decade’s loud color palette. Muscle shirts and the like also became much more widespread, just like running gear. These days gym attire has a lot of appearance and feature overlap with standard everyday street clothes – if somewhat more streamlined and presentable – because of the aforementioned desire to go to and from the gym as part of the routine.
These days, though, being fashionable is much more tempered than before by the need to be functional. Runners, basketball players, and other athletes are very picky about the shoes they wear, although these days this is less because of a popular player’s endorsement and more about the shoe’s ability to provide proper support and striking surfaces for running and the like. Furthermore, a currently popular type of athletic wear, compression gear, is becoming more widely used less for its superheroic spandex-like appearance and more for the effects it has on the body, which stem from some pretty old findings that are finding new relevance in modern sport.
If you’ve ever had a joint injury, or indeed most muscular injury problems, odds are you’ve heard of compression. This is one of the things always immediately recommended in order to recover from these maladies. Wrapping an injured joint tightly, or encasing it in a compression sleeve, complements the other recovery recommendations – icing the joint, keeping it elevated, and not stressing it out or using it as much as possible – by encouraging good blood flow in the area, reducing metabolic waste and helping stabilize the area in order for recovery and healing to be improved. This basic effect of encouraging and aiding circulation is common to most compression systems, and indeed is one of the most prevalent benefits of this type of attire.
Compression sleeves and the like have been prescribed by doctors as recovery aids for a number of things for which good circulation is imperative. Sleeves and wraps have been helpful to those with varicose or spider veins, and have in fact helped people regain some strength and movement in their legs that would otherwise be a bit too weak to stride and walk effectively. Compression attire has also been prescribed for those recovering from injury or surgery, in order to prevent blood clots from forming in the area and complicating matters. The same is true for bedridden patients, whose leg muscles aren’t currently being used a lot and would otherwise be susceptible.
Compression gear has emerged as quite popular these days, with a lot of people putting their faith in what these garments are advertised to do. However, studies have shown inconclusive results with regard to a lot of these. While the improved blood flow is certainly present and worth acknowledging, the link between that and drastically improved performance is something that might have been beefed up considerably by certain ad campaigns.
However, certain studies have shown that there are some concrete biological benefits. An experimental vs. control group test set in South Africa showed that the compression (experimental) group was able to sustain less muscle damage, thus being able to return to action more quickly, than the control group did. Similar studies with similar field settings have demonstrated reductions in perceived fatigue as well as improved reduction in metabolic waste that is attributed to increased and more efficient overall blood flow. This is usually seen most when the compression applied by the compression gear is graduated, tighter at the ankle than at other points.
Furthermore, at least one account suggests that a run one day in compression gear allowed for a more ready return to running the next day, with much less pain and fatigue than would ordinarily be there. This as well as the reduction in perceived fatigue noted by other studies is significant. In some cases, such as in a cycling study set in New Zealand, this can result in improved performance (i.e. less-deteriorated due to fatigue) in subsequent rounds or trials. After all, the performance that is sought to be improved by wearing compression gear is rarely a one-time thing – what training regimen, or sport, is indeed a one-time thing? – and as such the improved circulation granted by compression gear is theorized to be able to provide one more benefit. This is supposedly the improved, more efficient restocking of glycogen, along with the improved clearing of metabolic waste that would typically weigh down the muscle.
While this and a lot of other benefits might be argued to be all in the mind, the fact remains that a lot of performance is similarly all in the mind – if you sense your body is up to the task, it’s considerably easier to mobilize the entire system and get it to do what you want.
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