As the positive trend of ‘taking care of yourself’ grows, more and more people are looking to find fitness apparel that not only is flexible and comfortable, but is also functional and fashionable. As we are demanding more of ourselves physically, we also are demanding more of our fitness wear. At the heart of the current workout wear revolution is compression apparel. It is one of the hottest trends embraced by exercise aficionados and serious athletes everywhere.
Compression wear can be loosely defined as clothing that fits closely to the body, but in its best form is expertly engineered to exert even or gradient compression to crucial parts of the body, depending on the needs of the athlete. There is a growing body of research to attest to its health and performance benefits. In fact, independent studies have shown that some compression apparel can increase circulation by 30%. As compression increases the blood becomes more oxygenated, improving strength, stamina, endurance and recovery time.
Degrees of Compression
The level of pressure exerted by compression garments is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and the measurement is sometimes listed on the label. Some of today’s compression socks offer the consumer a choice of mm HG levels, such as: 8 – 15, light support; 15 -20, moderate support; 20 – 30, firm support; 30 – 40, extra firm support, and so on. Anything over 12 mm will give the leg more energy. By comparison, a regular basic sock has a level of about 2 to 3 mm Hg.
When shopping for compression apparel, let the buyer beware. Some products marketed as compression garments may just be tight-fitting. Exercisers and athletes should explore the compression level that works best for them. SkinsTM, for example, uses gradient compression, or varying levels of compression at different areas of the body, with tightest levels furthest from the heart for optimal circulation.
Rocking the Runway
In addition to the performance enhancing properties of the new generation of compression wear, you can’t overlook the Olympian leap it has taken in style. Vibrant colors and patterns are lighting up the fitness world, from yoga studios and gyms all the way to triathlon and Iron Man competitions and everything in between. No longer is function the only factor for choosing exercise and training apparel, today’s athletes can bring their own sense of fashion to the workout arena.
With the evolution of fashionable fitness wear has come changing attitudes about where your “gym clothes” meet acceptable standards for appropriate attire. The latest generation of active wear is working hard to blur the lines between the locker room and your everyday wardrobe. Even celebrities, like actress Kate Hudson, are getting into the act with a line of fitness wear that looks great before and after your workout. No longer must your workout clothes be relegated to the gym bag. According to Vogue, people of all ages are wearing their workout wear all day – whether it’s leggings with a longer coat and a scarf, or someone younger wearing a cropped T-shirt with a denim jacket and some high-heeled boots. “People shop for their fitness wear thinking, ‘How can I wear this from the studio to the street?’” And thanks to moisture-wicking synthetic fabrics and antimicrobial advances, no one has to be the wiser that you just walked out of the gym.