Some runners believe that compression pants improve their performance and allow them to run farther and faster, but a new study suggests that the popular clothing may not actually be giving fitness enthusiasts the extra boost they need.
The theory was that running causes leg muscles to vibrate and this leads to muscle contraction and fatigue. By wearing compression tights, leg muscles are confined in a way that reduces contraction in the muscles which, in turn, would lessen fatigue and allow the wearer to go the extra mile during their running sessions or marathon.
Researchers from Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, however, challenged that theory and found that participants performed just the same with or without compression clothing.
Testing Compression Tights
Ajit Chaudhari, associate professor of physical therapy, orthopedics, mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, the study's lead author, tested two prototype compression tights by Nike, who also happens to fund the research.
To test the theory, Chaudhari and his team asked 17 athletes to participate in the research by running on a specialized treadmill with sensors on two separate days, once wearing compression tights and once without it. Both runs would have participants moving at 80 percent of their maximum running speed for 30 minutes while they are equipped with sensors and heart rate monitors that keep track of their muscle activity and exertion throughout the test.
After the rigorous physical test, the team found that there were no significant changes in exertion and muscle fatigue.
"[The] reduced vibration was not associated with any reduction in fatigue at all. In the study, runners performed the same with and without compression tights," Chaudhari revealed.
Watch the presentation below.
Are Compression Tights Worth It?
For his part, Chaudhari says that purchasing compression tights specifically for performance improvement may not be worth the money. He is also not saying that athletes who swear by the clothing are making a mistake, especially since the study did not return negative results with regard to the clothing.
"Every little bit of perception counts when running long distances, and they may be benefiting runners in ways that we aren't able to measure," Chaudhari said.
For its part, Nike is taking the results in stride and plans to continue finding ways to help athletes improve their performance.
"Our goal is to better understand all aspects of human performance. The Ohio State University study ... produced an interesting data point that delivered an additional perspective on the study of compression tights," Nike wrote in a statement.
Can compression tights make people better runners? The study says it does not improve performance but it is not stopping anyone from trying it out. Just don't blame the tights if no improvements are seen.