In a world full (and getting fuller) of fitness gear, deciding what's worth your money can be a tough call. Compression leggings are one thing I've always been on the fence about, unsure of how tighter-fitting leggings (aren't they tight enough already?!) could actually benefit my performance when I'm working out or running. Curious, I talked to Jorianne Numbers, MS, an exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine, to see if these specialty leggings are really worth the hype.
Why Should You Wear Compression Leggings During Exercise?
For runners or anyone doing an intense lower-body workout, Jorianne explained, compression leggings increase blood flow to the working muscles in your legs. That increase "helps reduce the amount of lactic acid produced during exercise," she told POPSUGAR. Lactic acid is a compound that builds up when you deplete your blood oxygen supply, which can happen during strenuous exercise and lead to a burning sensation in your muscles — the uncomfortable or even painful feeling you might get when running up a steep hill or holding a squat.
Compression leggings also help to reduce swelling, thanks to the pressure they apply to your legs, which helps to facilitate blood flow in your deep veins. This can provide relief from inflammation-related injuries like shin splints, Jorianne said, and also helps prevent more serious health issues like blood clots. That's important, because when blood clots occur in your legs, they can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — in which the clot travels to your lungs and becomes extremely dangerous.
Are Compression Leggings Good For Long Flights?
Beyond exercise and injury prevention, wearing compression leggings or stockings can also have health benefits when you're traveling, aka sitting for long periods of time. "Traveling allows for a lot of inactivity, which puts you at a greater risk for a blood clot and swelling in the legs," Jorianne said. Same goes for anyone who's injured and bedridden or forced to be inactive for any other reason. Not moving for hours, no matter what the cause, messes with your blood flow and increases the possibility of blood clots and their dangerous effects.
Should I Wear Compression Leggings?
If you struggle with swelling, lactic acid buildup, or shin splints during exercise, compression leggings or stockings may well help you feel better. "I use compression stockings when running," Jorianne said. "A lot of runners swear by them." She recommended wearing them both during and after exercise to maximize the benefits and bring down swelling during recovery. If blood circulation is an issue in general, or if you find yourself sitting for extended periods of time at work or while traveling, compression leggings might be a good choice as well. Check out our nine favorite pairs of compression leggings and these colorful, effective compression stockings to start feeling better ASAP.