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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 May;112(5):1783-95. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-2146-2. Epub 2011 Sep 7.

Pressure and coverage effects of sporting compression garments on cardiovascular function, thermoregulatory function, and exercise performance.

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  • 1Clothing and Textile Sciences, Department of Applied Sciences, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Sporting compression garments (CG) are used widely during exercise despite little evidence of benefits. The purpose of this study was to investigate coverage and pressure effects of full-body CG on cardiovascular and thermoregulatory function at rest and during prolonged exercise, and on exercise performance. Twelve recreationally trained male cyclists [mean (SD) age, 26 (7) years; VO(2 max), 53 (8) mL kg(-1) min(-1)] completed three sessions (counterbalanced order), wearing either correctly-sized CG (CSG; 11-15 mmHg), over-sized CG (OSG; 8-13 mmHg), or gym shorts (CONT). Test sessions were conducted in temperate conditions [24 (1)°C, 60 (4)% relative humidity; ~2 m s(-1) air velocity during exercise], consisting of resting on a chair then on a cycle ergometer, before 60-min fixed-load cycling at ~65% VO(2 max) and a 6-km time trial. Wearing CG (CSG or OSG) did not mitigate cardiovascular strain during mild orthostatic stress at rest (p = 0.20-0.93 for garment effects). During exercise, cardiac output was ~5% higher in the CG conditions (p < 0.05), which appears to be accounted for via non-significant higher end-exercise heart rate (~4-7%, p = 0.30; p = 0.06 for greater heart rate drift in CSG); other cardiovascular variables, including stroke volume, were similar among conditions (p = 0.23-0.91). Covered-skin temperature was higher in CG conditions (p < 0.001) but core (oesophageal) temperature was not (p = 0.79). Time-trial performance (mean power, time taken) was similar with or without CG (p = 0.24-0.44). In conclusion, any demonstrable physiological or psychophysical effects of full-body CG were mild and seemingly reflective more of surface coverage than pressure. No benefit was evident for exercise performance.

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