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

  • MacRae B
  • Laing R
  • Niven B
 et al. 
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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)degreeC, 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.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Body temperature regulation
  • Circulation
  • Cycling
  • Haemodynamics
  • Venous return

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