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Compression Tights Don’t Make Runners Faster Or Stronger

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Compression tights are a trend that appears to have caught on among fitness buffs. Unfortunately, scientists have some bad news: they don’t do anything for the wearer.

This new trend is basically form-fitting leggings that sportswear manufacturers claim hold muscles in place, allowing people to run faster, among other health benefits. Compression tights also supposedly lift the wearer’s butt and streamline his or her figure, CNN reports.

But researchers from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that these tights don’t help runners become faster or cover more ground. Ajit Chaudhari, lead author on the study and associate professor of physical therapy, said,

We found that compression tights actually reduce the amount your muscles vibrate, but that was not associated with any less fatigue during a 30-minute high-intensity run.

Chaudhari and a team decided to look into the topic closely, after reviewing research that claims when muscles are vibrating, they “activate” more in order to reduce the vibration. Chaudhari said, “So, if that’s happening, over the course of a long run, that extra activation ought to lead to greater fatigue, because it basically takes more energy to be more active.”

“By that theory, reducing vibration ought to reduce the amount of energy the muscle is using to do the work it’s trying to do, and so therefore you would end up with less fatigue overall,” he explained.

However, the results turned out to be the opposite, which surprised the researchers.

Twenty “healthy experienced male runners” ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes on two separate days, while wearing regular running shorts and while wearing compression tights. The body movements were tracked down to a fraction of a millimeter

Both low compression and high compression tights were tested. At the end, the researchers stated, “More compression is not necessarily better, at least while you’re running, in terms of reducing vibration.” Reducing vibration did not lessen runner’s fatigue.

Chaudhari concluded, “If somebody is thinking about compression tights because of a performance benefit for them, then I don’t think we really have evidence that that’s true. However, if they’re wearing them because they just feel more comfortable or they’re trying to prevent chafing or it wicks sweat away better, those are all perfectly valid (reasons).”

Nike, the athletic company that funded the study via a research grant, said that they run hundreds of performance studies in its own Sport Research Lab. “Our goal is to better understand all aspects of human performance,” a spokesperson said. “Our role is to take athlete feedback and data from studies like this to develop world class products for athletes at every level.”

The study was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s yearly meeting in Denver.

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