Does compression gym gear actually benefit the wearer?

A cyclist taking part in the trial
Image caption Twenty-five cyclists took part in the tests at the University of Birmingham

I'm very definitely a "MAMIL" - a middle-aged man in lycra - who spends not as much time as he'd like in the gym.

But as I'm getting older I'm more and more interested in anything that might help improve my workout and even aid recovery.

Which brings us to compression wear and the question of whether or not it really works?

You may well have tried compression wear - stretchy garments that look at least five sizes too small. Once you've squeezed into the leggings or shirt you can feel a very real tightness around your muscles.

From bog-standard gym goers like me to elite sportspeople, everyone is pouring themselves into the tight grip of compression wear and it's a multibillion pound business.


Now for the first time, the University of Birmingham has carried out a study to show that compression wear can indeed benefit the wearer.

It's a smallish study of 25 cyclists, but it did show a very real effect in both boosting performance and recovery when compared to wearing standard gym clothes alone.

Image caption These compression leggings are designed to squeeze the muscles and also provide joint support

For the cyclists, the impact was on average equivalent to knocking 30 seconds off a 60-minute road race.

All of which was good news for Oscar Ryndziewicz, because it was his idea to carry out the research and it was an experiment using clothing created by his new Birmingham-based start-up company.


So the big question is why on earth do grippy garments make a difference to the performance of athletes? Well to be honest we don't really know.

There are some theories; perhaps the tightness of the material helps with blood flow and provides the same kind of effect as a lengthy sport massage.

Right now one of Oscar's colleagues is in America looking to carry out further research to find out more.

The good news for MAMILs like me is the team at the university think it's likely the effect will be more pronounced for ordinary people when compared to the effect in top athletes.

So I guess I'll be squeezing myself into more tight lycra and seeing if it makes a difference in my performance.

Image caption Test subjects can spend an hour or more exercising

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