Here Are 6 “No Sweat” Benefits of Compression Pants When Doing Physical Activity

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Written by Penny Cooper

Not so long ago, if you went for a walk or run in a city park, everyone was wearing sweatpants or wide shorts. Fast forward, and these days I see more and more people wearing compression shorts or pants. 

Cotton-lovers still avoid these garments but it seems the battle is over or is it? The army of compression gear grows stronger every day. Obviously, there has to be a good reason for it, and I don’t believe it’s all about fashion.

So, what are the benefits of compression pants apart from looking sharp and fit? I admit to wearing compression shirts and other tight apparel and after years deriding sportsmen and women using them, I have been tempted by the secure lure of the compression shorts and pants – ooh guilty pleasure!

The main benefit for me for wearing compression gear will be summed up in reason number 6.

Before we get on to the 6 benefits of compression pants let’s uncover the truths and myths about wearing compression garments when exercising.

How Do Compression Pants Work?

It comes down to a couple of small but significant improvements. Compression garments materials are breathable, can wick moisture, and provide pressure to support muscles.

Three qualities that are the essential benefits of compression leggings and shorts.

Breathability and moisture-wicking are not only important for comfort, but they also help thermoregulation. Exercising in the heat leads to early exhaustion and in cold weather you’re more prone to muscle damage and strains. So the more efficient the thermoregulation, the more effective your workout.

Compression works as a support system for your muscles. It’s a tiny support, but it can make all the difference as you’re going to see.

And Do Compression Garments Work?

For aiding recovery and the relief of muscle soreness, yes they do, that is according to research.

Remember RICE (Rest, Compression, Ice, Elevation)? It’s a first-aid treatment for soft tissue injuries. Well, it appears that most of these procedures can help healthy people to improve performance and speed up post-workout recovery.

Okay, maybe you don’t need ice and elevation, but this is all about compression. Numerous other studies suggest that compression garments provide support, comfort, and relief.

As a consequence, you may not run faster or jump higher, but your endurance will slightly improve and you’ll decrease chances of muscle pain, damage, and inflammation.

Not to mention a more pleasant exercising experience due to staying dry and comfortable. 

Benefits of Compression Pants & Other Tight Garments

1. Compression Pants Support Your Muscles

Compression in sportswear has two main functions. First, it provides slight support and stability.

Secondly, it helps maintain optimal body temperature.

Have you ever walked on a balance beam? It’s quite easy to lose balance. However, if you can use your hand to reach out for an additional point of contact, even the slightest support will make it easy to maintain your balance.

It’s a similar story with compression. Running, jumping, changing direction – these actions put a lot of pressure on your muscles and joints. Compression provides support that is hardly noticeable, but it gives you that extra edge to avoid strains and injuries.

As for the body temperature, cold muscles are somewhat stiff, that’s why we need to warm up prior to any exercise. If you wear compression leggings they will warm up quicker and more effectively. Obviously, better heat management helps after the exercise as well as during.

2. Compression Shorts & Leggings Reduce Muscle Fatigue

It sounds silly that a pair of leggings can reduce tiredness and muscle pain. But, there’s a lot of science to support the idea. It’s not a miracle cure for fatigue, but any decrease is great is worth it especially for elite athletes and their desire to get maximum gain from many small percentages. 

Lower region of man running in a field with compression pants

This is how it goes, compression garments can improve running economy and accelerate clearance of metabolic byproducts like lactic acid, a result of athletic exertion. It means that you’ll be slightly less tired and your muscles will ache less after getting stressed.

3. Enhanced Recovery With Compression Garments

The foregoing qualities are crucial for another benefit of compression tights – better and quicker post-workout recovery.

The decreased risk of muscle damage and inflammation directly results in enhanced recovery. After all, compression garments were originally designed for medical use to help soft tissue recovery and alleviate circulation problems.

4. Staying Dry is Just a Wick Away

Truth be told, compression has nothing to do with it. But, compression garments are made of fabrics with moisture-wicking and quick-dry properties. It’s just about comfort, but it was a huge step forward in the sports apparel industry.

No more unnecessary suffering when working out in soaking wet clothes which in itself can reduce performance and have an adverse effect post-event or training.

Hanging around after soaking your clothes with sweat can lead to a sudden and big drop in temperature which in itself, can mean a weakening of the immune system leading to colds and other ailments.

5. Breathability Of Compression Shorts

Compression pants are tight, but they are also breathable. They, as other compression garments allow air to circulate through the material, across the body.

Without breathability, the other benefits would be immensely diminished. It’s the last piece of the puzzle that allows compression gear to provide tremendous benefits.

As an aside. If you have wondered whether to wear anything under compression pants, we’ve covered that here. Spoiler alert – the answer is don’t. For a start, underwear, under compression gear will mess with breathability and wicking qualities. It could look silly too.

6. Feeling Good With Compression Gear

Maybe it’s not a scientific benefit of compression pants but for me, it’s the reason I love wearing compression tops and bottoms. I admit to having excess parts of me that I want to keep under control, not huge bits, but some.

And, quite frankly, compression gear is slimming.

I find the feeling of overall support given by compression gear promotes a better posture and leads to improved “form”. It’s easier to “engage the core” when some tight material is lending a hand.

Knowing that I look shiny, sleek and svelte gives me more confidence and encouragement. Yeah, I know it’s a bit vain – but it all helps.

Wearing compression gear makes me feel good, helps me look better and so gives me encouragement in my physical activities even if it’s working out on my own but especially when taking a class. That might sound odd but hopefully, you know what I mean.

Compression Garments: Help or Hype?

By now, you know it’s help. But, in all honesty, there’s some hype to it as well. 

Many people, as well as manufacturers, claim that compression gear enhances athletic performance. So, what does science say?

Improvement claims are based on suggestions that compression improves vein circulation, oxygen uptake, and better perceived exertion. This science lingo means that you should be able to run slightly faster and longer, jump higher and overall – perform better.

The truth is that the vast majority of scientific evidence doesn’t support these claims. Improvements are insignificant if any. Some of them might be psychological – you just feel lean and mean in a cool looking outfit. Anyhow, there is no conclusive evidence to back up any great advantages for the likes of me – for elite athletes, however, it might be a different story as a performance enhancement theory.

It’s a whole different story when we talk about recovery and endurance. Evidence is clear and overwhelming that compression clothing comes with positive effects on recovery and some endurance parameters.

And So…

Maybe many good things are a little bit overhyped. We humans are prone to exaggeration when something works well and makes us happy. Compression garments are no exception to the rule. Some people swear they can almost fly in a Superman red and blue skin-tight outfit.

These overstated appraisals shouldn’t take away anything from the compression garments. While they won’t make you fly, they come with many great benefits that changed the world of sports apparel for good. 

The bottom line is that you won’t run like Usain Bolt or jump like LeBron James, but you’ll feel improvement in recovery, comfort, endurance, fatigue, and injury prevention departments. 

If professional athletes reap those benefits, why shouldn’t you take advantage of them as well?

But looking good and feeling good whilst working out – a bit shallow maybe – is, for me, the most pleasing benefit of wearing compression pants and similar clothing.

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Penny is a Personal Trainer currently training as a wellness coach. She gained a BA in English at Edinburgh University. Redundancy from retail management hastened a move to helping people get fit and writing about all things fitness in middle age.

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