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Study casts doubt on heat-dissipating benefits of compression garments

Recommends older cyclists in particular steer clear of such clothing in hot weather

Recent research carried out at the University of Navarra in Spain has found that ‘heat-dissipating’ upper body compression garments offer no temperature-controlling benefits, and in older people can in fact raise body temperature compared to wearing cotton.

Some compression garments claim thermoregulatory benefits as a result of increased heat dissipation resulting from improved sweat efficiency.

MedicalXpress reports that Iker Leoz compared the performance of a commercially available short sleeve upper body compression garment (made of 94 per cent nylon, 4 per cent elastane and 2 per cent polypropylene) to that of a short-sleeved garment made from 100 per cent cotton.

The compression garment’s manufacturers claimed it would dissipate heat by transporting excess sweat, allowing it to evaporate while exercising.

The study looked at healthy, physically active individuals in various environmental conditions.

"We carried out four studies, all published in international impact journals: three of them on young, physically active participants; and a fourth one in which we recruited older individuals with an average age of 66 and physically trained,” said Leoz. “The participants exercised in thermoneutral environments, between 20 and 23C; warm environments at 25C; and hot ones at 40C."

The studies showed that use of the compression garment offered no temperature-controlling benefits in physically active young people during moderate exercise at a temperature of 20C – although during passive recovery the use of garments of this type could help to lower body temperature.

When the same group carried out moderate exercise in a hot atmosphere (40C), the compression garment failed to mitigate not only cardiovascular stress but also temperature control. Leoz also found that cardiovascular stress could increase at that temperature during active recovery.

The ability to maintain body temperature in high temperature declines with age. In the case of trained cyclists with an average age of 66, the compression garment actually increased body temperature. For this reason Leoz recommends that such people do not use heat-dissipating compression clothing, as he says it could increase the raising of body temperature above normal levels.

"Recreational cyclists should be made aware of the possible adverse effects of this type of clothing," he concluded.

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